Karim Benzema admits his exile from France and Mathieu Valbuena sex tape scandal was ‘morally tough’ but is ‘focused to the max’ on helping Les Bleus at Euro 2020 after receiving shock recall for first time in six years
Karim Benzema has admitted his exile from the French national team was ‘morally hard’ but is keen to draw a line under his contentious relationship with the team ahead of his return.
The 33-year-old striker had been cast aside by manager Didier Deschamps since 2015 following his alleged role in the sex-tape blackmail of former France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.
But Benzema was recalled to the French squad for this summer’s European Championships after some good form for club side Real Madrid, with the experienced forward insisting he never gave up hope of playing for France again.
Karim Benzema has spoken for the first time since his shock recall to the France squad
The striker was picked by Didier Deschamps (left) for this year’s European Championships
Benzema told a press conference on Sunday: ‘I never stopped believing it, I never gave up, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I was very disappointed, it was morally hard.
‘There were a lot of obstacles, It’s part of my career, I’ve always fought, and that’s what it takes to hope to come back. I’m rewarded.’
Benzema is suspected of encouraging Valbuena to co-operate with blackmailers, who threatened to release an intimate video in which he featured.
Investigators who charged Benzema believe he was approached by a childhood friend to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with the blackmailers. Instead, Valbuena informed the police.
Benzema (right) was exiled for six years over a sex tape scandal with Mathieu Valbuena (left)
When the story broke, Benzema faced intense criticism and then-Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the striker had ‘no place’ in the national team. He had been unable to repair relations and return for his country until his recall earlier this summer.
It is understood that Benzema will go on trial from October 20 to October 22 this year and he denies any wrongdoing and four other people will also stand trial in the case.
The Real Madrid striker maintains that there are regrets from his incident involving Valbuena but claims he is solely focused on France’s performances in the summer tournament.
Benzema insists he is purely focused on helping France at this summer’s European tournament
He added: ‘There are always regrets. I want to say that what happened has happened. There are always regrets, but you can’t go back.
‘What matters most to me is what you have done on the football field, I am focused to the max on what I can bring to this team. This is what I have in my head as ambition.’
The striker ended his press conference by confirming he had already spoken to Deschamps about his return and drawing a line under the scandal.
The Real Madrid man confirmed he said ‘thank you’ to Deschamps for giving him a recall
When asked to say thank you to the France boss for bringing him back in, Benzema joked: ‘I think I already told him. You want me to say it here? Thank you Didier.
‘We have already had a discussion, it has been said. I’m super happy to be here.’
Benzema will be hoping to help France complete a World Cup and European Championships double after they lifted their second trophy in the global tournament back in 2018.