It seems as though one of the world’s best strikers has got himself into a bit of bother off the pitch. Real Madrid star and France international Karim Benzema is currently under investigation for conspiracy to blackmail, in a case involving none other than his international teammate Mathieu Valbuena.
The story revolves around an alleged tape of Valbuena during a sexual encounter. Valbuena went to French police back in July to seek their assistance when he was contacted by blackmailers threatening to release the video. It’s understood that Benzema has been involved to some degree, but it looks to be a matter of deciding whether he was at one point the messenger or a full-on conspirator.
Benzema spent a night in custody in Versailles last week, and is under official investigation, something which requires at least some evidence under French law. Reports suggest that Benzema had a conversation with Valbuena regarding the extortion attempts, speaking on behalf of a ‘childhood friend’ who was threatening to release the tape.
So where does this leave France heading into the Euros that they are hosting next summer? Well, the worst case scenario would be Benzema, a pivotal figure in the team and undisputed no.1 striker, doing time for his part in the extortion attempt. Prosecutors suggest he could be behind bars for as long as five years if he’s found guilty. If he’s found innocent, barring a peculiar turn of events, it’s hard to see how the two could appear again for the French national team, at least together.
Either way it presents France manager Didier Deschamps with a conundrum, as the two players were expected to fill the 9 & 10 roles this summer and propel the side to glory on home turf. With divisions in the camp and egos being a recurring problem for the French during recent international tournaments, this latest controversy couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Luckily the French are rather blessed with attacking talent, with the likes of Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud and Manchester United youngster Anthony Martial ready to come in and lead the line should Benzema be absent. Valbuena, though, will be more difficult to replace, especially given the international retirement of Manchester City’s Samir Nasri.
Both players were left out of the latest France squad as the investigation continues to unfold. And after vocal support from the Real Madrid president, it was yesterday reported in Spanish newspaper AS that Karim Benzema will be promptly sacked from the club should he be found guilty by French police.