The France striker Karim Benzema has claimed that the national team manager, Didier Deschamps, “bowed to the pressure of a racist part of France” when agreeing to leave him out of the squad for Euro 2016.
Benzema has scored 27 goals in 81 appearances for his country but will not take part at the championship finals on home soil this summer after being suspended by the French Football Federation in December.
The decision related to the player being placed under criminal investigation over an attempt to blackmail international team-mate Valbuena in relation to a sex-tape, with the FFF president, Noël Le Graët, saying it was important for the sake of “strong harmony” within the squad that the 28-year-old was not involved.
Deschamps gave his backing to the decision, something Benzema has criticised in an interview with the Spanish newspaper Marca, claiming it had more to do with his north African roots than the case involving Valbuena.
“He [Deschamps] has bowed to the pressure of a racist part of France,” said Benzema, who scored 29 goals for Real Madrid last season as the Spanish club finished second in La Liga and won the Champions League. “He has to know that in France the extremist party reached the second round in the last two elections.
“I do not know, therefore, whether it is a decision only for Didier because I’ve gotten along with him, with the president, everyone. I do not have a problem with anyone. I am with France and wish them well.”
Benzema’s comments follows those made by Eric Cantona in an interview with the Guardian, during which the former Manchester United forward questioned Deschamps’s decision to leave not only Benzema out of France’s Euro 2016 squad but also Hatem Ben Arfa, suggesting his one-time international colleague may have done so because both players have north Africa heritage. “Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name,” Cantona said. “Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know. Like the Mormons in America.
“So I’m not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. Especially after [Manuel] Valls [the French prime minister] said he should not play for France. And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that.”
Deschamps’s lawyer, Carlos Brusa, reacted to Cantona’s comments by saying he was launching proceedings against the 50-year-old to penalise “the unacceptable slanderous and defamatory statements that harm Mr Deschamps’s integrity”. Le Graët also described Cantona’s comments as “ridiculous”.
Writing on Twitter, France’s junior minister for sports, Thierry Braillard, called Benzema’s statements to Marca “unjustified and unacceptable. Total support to FFF and Didier Deschamps”.
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