The French Prime Minister joined in the criticism of Karim Benzema on Tuesday, saying the Real Madrid striker “has no place” on the France team at the European Championship in the wake of a blackmail scandal involving teammate Mathieu Valbuena.
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Benzema is one of France’s key players as it gets ready to host the Euro 2016 tournament, but he faces allegations of teaming up with a friend to extort money from teammate Mathieu Valbuena using blackmail over a sex tape the Lyon midfielder recorded.
His alleged active role in pressuring France teammate Mathieu Valbuena has badly damaged his reputation and could even earn him the sack at Real Madrid.
A great athlete should be exemplary,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French radio Europe 1. “If he is not, he has no place within the France team.”
The investigation, started when Valbuena took legal action after being contacted by a man claiming to possess an incriminating sex tape.
In a case that could drag on for months, Benzema’s involvement has not yet been fully determined. But investigators who charged him in October believe he was approached by a childhood friend to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with the black mailers, it should be noted that Benzema in 2008 did the same thing with Djibril Cisse over a sex tape.
“If a minister was handed preliminary charges, he would no longer be part of the government,” Valls said.
Benzema denies any wrongdoing but his arguments were undermined last week when Valbuena spoke directly about his attempts to pressure him in an interview with Le Monde newspaper.
“There are so many kids, so many youngsters in our suburbs that relate to great athletes,” Valls said. “They wear the blue jersey, the colors of France, which are so important in these moments.”
Benzema’s laywer hit back at French prime minister Valls.
“So what’s the prime minister doing about presumption of innocence?” Alain Jakubowicz said on RTL radio. “This case is being played out in the media in an absolutely scandalous way, prompting the prime minister to express himself on a case he knows absolutely nothing about. Who will it be tomorrow? The president of France?”