PARIS • Karim Benzema insists that his go-between role in the Mathieu Valbuena sex tape blackmail case has been misunderstood as the Real Madrid striker prepared to explain himself on French TV yesterday.
The pre-recorded interview comes in the wake of comments from French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday, saying only players with exemplary records should represent France at Euro 2016.
"It's all a huge misunderstanding. All I was doing was trying to help. There's nothing to any of it, no blackmail or demands for money," Benzema told a judge in early November, according to a Le Monde article yesterday.
The scandal is a serious distraction to France before they host Euro 2016 - Benzema has been banned from meeting Valbuena and neither was called up for France's games against Germany and England recently.
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.
AT ODDS WITH POLICE PHONE TAP
It's all a huge misunderstanding. All I was doing was trying to help. There's nothing to any of it, no blackmail or demands for money.
KARIM BENZEMA , to a French judge
Four men, including Benzema's friend Karim Zenati, have been charged and detained for 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 former Lyon star says he had no need of money, nor did Zenati, as he was employed in one of Benzema's companies.
But a police telephone tap on Benzema and his calls to Zenati cast doubts on their attitude.
"I'm mad with myself for having talked that way on the phone, we went too far," Benzema said of comments that appeared to mock Valbuena.
Valbuena told Le Monde last week he was "very, very, very disappointed" by Benzema.
Benzema's lawyer Alain Jakubowicz told yesterday's Le Parisien that the player would use the TV interview to apologise to Valbuena.
The lawyer also hit out at Mr Valls' comments over his client's potential exclusion from the France squad, asking: "Is this a prime minister's words or those of a Barcelona fan talking about a Real Madrid player?"
Jakubowicz said he would sue Le Monde for contempt of court for having revealed details of Benzema's testimony, adding that the revelations would aid the player's defence.