Benzema miss Euro 2016 because of blackmail case

benzemaPARIS, France ‚óŹ Karim Benzema will not play for France at this year’s European Championship after his national federation ruled against his return due to an ongoing legal case.

Benzema is facing preliminary charges of conspiracy to blackmail, relating to an extortion scam over a sex tape involving France teammate Mathieu Valbuena.

Benzema was suspended indefinitely in December pending the ongoing case, and the FFF said Wednesday in a statement that “(federation president) Noel Graet and (coach) Didier Deschamps have decided that Benzema will not be able to play at Euro 2016.”

Leading politicians, such as Prime Minister Manuel Valls, said Benzema should not be selected for the national team.

Benzema, who has scored 27 goals in 81 matches, misses a second major tournament after being left out of the 2010 World Cup squad.

“Unfortunately for me and for those who have always supported me … I will not be selected for our Euro in France,” Benzema said on his Twitter page.

Deschamps will be without his leading scorer when Euro 2016 host France takes on Romania on June 10 in the tournament opener at Stade de France.

Investigators charging him believed he was approached by a childhood friend to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with blackmailers in possession of a sex tape featuring the Lyon winger.

Although Benzema denies any wrongdoing, his arguments were undermined when Valbuena spoke about Benzema’s attempts to pressure him, telling a French newspaper he was particularly shocked by the way Benzema spoke about him over the phone with one of the suspected blackmailers, joking that Valbuena would get “eaten by the piranhas.”

Benzema acknowledged that the tone of his conversation — after his phone had been tapped by police investigators — was uncalled for and apologized to Valbuena and his family.

In 2010, Benzema was handed preliminary charges for soliciting an underage prostitute but was acquitted in a case that lasted more than three years. Former France coach Raymond Domenech left him out of the 2010 World Cup squad.

A few hours before Wednesday’s verdict, Benzema reaffirmed his commitment to Les Bleus — the nickname for the national team — with a tweet saying “Quoi qu’il arrive, Bleu un jour, Bleu toujours” (Whatever happens, once a Blue, always a Blue).

The 28-year-old Benzema has been in the best club form of his career this season, scoring 21 league goals in 22 games and four in seven Champions League games for Real Madrid.

Although Deschamps is a big fan of Benzema, his importance to the national squad has been increasingly debated in recent weeks after some impressive attacking performances without him.

France won 3-2 away to Netherlands and beat Russia 4-2 at home, having also beaten World Cup winner Germany 2-0 back in November.

Earlier this week, Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery said he would consider coming out of international retirement in time for the Euro, but first wants to speak with Deschamps.

Benzema’s No. 9 jersey with likely go to either Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud or Andre-Pierre Gignac, who plays for Mexican side Tigres.

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