For as large as the legal ramifications of Karim Benzema’s involvement in the attempted blackmailing of fellow French soccer player Mathieu Valbuena have loomed over the Real Madrid star’s head, the effect the ordeal would have on his international career was also one of his chief concerns. Today he received resolution on that front, when the French soccer federation informed Benzema that he would not be called up for this summer’s European Championship.
The federation’s press release notes that its president, Noël Le Graët, met with the national team’s manager, Didier Deschamps, today to decide Benzema’s international fate for the coming Euro tournament. Initially, the federation suspended the striker from France duty indefinitely. The plan was to wait for the legal case to clear up some, then readdress things once Benzema’s culpability or lack thereof had been better determined.
After the judge presiding over the ongoing legal case lifted the restraining order forbidding all contact between Benzema and Valbuena, there had been speculation that Benzema’s path back to the national team was once again clear. However, after reviewing the all evidence in the case—a privilege the judge granted to the federation—Le Graët did not feel there was enough there to definitely exonerate Benzema from the blackmail plot. Because of this, he and Deschamps decided to rule Benzema out of the Euros.
Here’s how the press released described their thinking, as translated by the AFP:
They said that “sporting performance is an important factor but not the only one that decides whether a player is called up to the France squad.
“The capacity of the players to strive towards unity, within and around the squad, to be exemplary...are also taken into account.
“As a result, Noel Le Graet and Didier Deschamps have decided that Karim Benzema will not be able to participate at Euro 2016.”
Benzema actually broke the news on Twitter, with the following message: “Unfortunately for me and for those who have always backed me and supported me, I will not be selected for our Euro in France...”
The day before, when news broke that Wednesday would be the day of Le Graët’s meeting, Benzema posted a Facebook message that read: “No matter what happens... Once a Bleu... Always a Bleu!!!” It was accompanied by this video:
The video starts with Benzema captaining the national team in a match against Brazil, before rewinding back and showing a collection of highlights of his time with the national team.
Coincidentally or not, the first clip in the collection shows him in the second leg of the pivotal 2014 World Cup playoff against Ukraine. Fighting off defenders inside the box alongside another French player, both of teammates rush to get on the end of a wayward pass the Ukrainian defense was unable to properly clear. Benzema gets to it first, just pipping Mathieu Valbuena for the easy goal, and jogs over toward the sideline in celebration, Valbuena close behind.