Karim Benzema is in trouble with the law again – this time it’s big and with just 7 months to go until the European Championships kick off in France
This is something that French manager Didier Deschamps could not have foreseen in his preparation plans for Euro 2016: one of his star players under arrest for blackmailing one of his other star players.
The two involved in this bizarre drama are Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema and Olympique Lyonnais attacking midfielder Mathieu Valbuena. While the diminutive dynamo Valbuena is rarely in the headlines aside from his footballing activities, his more illustrious national teammate has got himself into hot water on a few occasions in recent years:
The talented Galactico missed out on participation in France’s controversial and ultimately disastrous World Cup in South Africa in 2010, after he was arrested over the Zahia Affair, a huge controversy involving the alleged prostitution of a minor. In the Spring of 2013, he was fined €18,000 and had his driving licence revoked for 8 months by Spanish authorities after being convicted of driving at 216km/hour in a 100km/hour zone.
This latest controversy apparently involves three ne’er-do-wells holding Valbuena to ransom over some highly personal footage of the current Lyon star in a compromising position (interestingly referred to in all of the reports in the French press as la sextape). The would-be blackmailers apparently got a close childhood friend of Benzema (he grew up in Lyon) to make contact with the Real Madrid star with a view to opening a discreet line of communication with Mathieu Valbuena on the 5th of October last.Benzema has been held in a police station in Versailles since Wednesday night, during which he admitted to his role as the go-between in the affair. The charges brought before Benzema could, in theory, see the €8 million-per-year star face 5 years in prison.
In a statement, the prosecuting judge said: “He (Benzema) was placed under direct judicial supervision with the prohibition of all manner of contact with either the victim or any other individuals under investigation.” According to a report in Le Monde, a source close to the investigation said that “Karim Benzema made a declaration confirming that he had agreed with the childhood friend on what he was to say so that his national team-mate would negotiate exclusively with him.” According to the same source, the 27-year-old Real Madrid striker confirmed that “he had wanted to assist his friend” without considering that he was doing wrong to Valbuena.
In a statement on Wednesday, Benzema’s lawyer Sylvain Cormier said: “My client is answering the questions. I would like to point out that he was the one who initiated contact with the investigating magistrates.” He also said that his client took “no part” in the affair and that he was “happy an completely satisfied to be able to finally put an end to this awful controversy.”
Yesterday, French national coach Didier Deschamps announced his squad for the upcoming round of friendlies against Germany and England. He dropped both Valbuena and Benzema but would not be drawn on the precise (but blatantly obvious) reasons why.
Ironically, this incident comes at a time when Benzema’s talents have finally come to fruition under Deschamps – a noted disciplinarian – and the the former Lyon prodigy had overtaken Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud as the preferred man up front for Les Bleus.