PARIS (AFP) - Mathieu Valbuena said Friday that France international teammate Karim Benzema “indirectly” told him he had to pay a ransom to get back a sex-tape of him with his girlfriend.
In his first public comments on the scandal that has seriously damaged the French national team, Valbuena told newspaper Le Monde he was “very, very, very disappointed” at the actions of Benzema.
Real Madrid star Benzema, 27, has been charged with complicity to blackmail Valbuena over the tape.
Le Monde asked Valbuena whether Benzema had just urged him to meet the blackmailers.
“Incite, that means ‘you will have to pay’ indirectly,” Valbuena replied.
“He was not aggressive in his manner of talking, he did not talk about money concretely, directly. But when someone insists that I meet someone ... hmmmm.
“I have never met anyone who is going to destroy a video for free just because they love me! You shouldn’t treat people like idiots,” Valbuena said.
The scandal is a serious distraction to France before they host Euro 2016 next year – Benzema has been banned from meeting Valbuena and neither was called up for France’s games against Germany and England recently.
Four men, including a friend of Benzema, Karim Zenati, have been charged and detained over the blackmail using the stolen sex-tape.
Benzema is alleged to have approached Valbuena about the images at a France national training camp on Oct 5.
The 31-year-old Lyon midfielder said it had been hard to accept the implication of a France teammate in the scandal.
“I am very, very, very disappointed and I can only note that my relations with Karim were not as sincere as he makes out,” he added.
According to investigation sources, Benzema has admitted to police that he was to act as an “intermediary” between Valbuena and one of the blackmailers who was a childhood friend of Benzema.
“When I went to the first (police) questioning I had absolutely no idea that Karim Benzema was involved,” Valbuena said.
Valbuena said Benzema had asked him to deny Benzema’s involvement in a telephone call when Lyon were in Russia preparing to play against Zenit St Petersburg in the Champions League on Oct 20.
“He said to me: ‘Mat my name has come out, what is all this chaos. I can’t be in all these affairs.’
“I said to him: ‘Listen Karim, its nothing special, you did nothing, there’s no worry’. But I told myself it’s strange that he wanted me to meet this person.”
According to Valbuena, Benzema then went on to ask him to deny his involvement.
“This is hot, it is going to become mad, I have a daughter and everything,” he quoted Benzema as saying.
Valbuena had earlier made a statement saying that another former teammate, Djibril Cisse, was not involved in the affair even though he had also been questioned by police about the sex-tape.
“At that moment, I knew that the big difference between Djibril and Karim was that Djibril had never asked me to meet someone. But Karim, he did,” said Valbuena.
The blackmail case began in June, when Valbuena lodged a complaint with police after being telephoned by a man who said he had the sex tape.
The French Football Federation (FFF) on Friday requested to become a civil party in the investigation in order to have access to the case files.
In a statement, the FFF said it “reserved the right...to take any necessary measures”, which could potentially mean disciplinary sanctions against Benzema.
Meanwhile, former France midfielder Samir Nasri has spoken out to dismiss suggestions he was implicated in the affair.
“I am not implicated. What have I got to do with any sextape!” the Manchester City player told RMC Radio on Friday after Le Monde reported that phone taps suggested Nasri had “proposed” to play a role as an intermediary.
“Everyone chooses their own life. I am a footballer. I am not a lout, or an intermediary, or a blackmailer, or anything,” added Nasri, who crossed paths with Valbuena at Marseille before moving to England and admitted that the pair had a “difficult” relationship.