Benzema back in France squad for Euros after six-year absence

The Real Madrid forward is set to make his return to Les Bleus after years away from the national team program

Karim Benzema has been named in France’s 26-man squad for this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament, with the Real Madrid star earning a recall from Didier Deschamps to the national team for the first time in six years.

Benzema had been a key figure for France since making his debut in 2007, but the forward fell out of favour with the national team program due to his alleged involvement in the Mathieu Valbuena sex tape scandal.

However, he has now rejoined the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann in the French squad as world champions Les Bleus seek to shine at the Euros this summer.

France squad in full

GOALKEEPERS: Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda, Mike Maignan

DEFENDERS: Leo Dubois, Benjamin Pavard, Kurt Zouma,Jules Koundé, Raphael Varane, Clement Lenglet, Prisnel Kimpembe, Lucas Digne, Lucas Hernandez

MIDFIELDERS: N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba, Adrien Rabiot, Corentin Tolisso, Moussa Sissoko

FORWARDS: Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud, Kylian Mbappe, Marcus Thuram, Kingsley Coman, Wissam Ben Yedder, Antoine Griezmann, Thomas Lemar, Ousmane Dembele.

What has Deschamps said?

The national team coach, who guided the country to World Cup success at Russia 2018, weighed in on Benzema’s inclusion, indicating that he previously refused to recall the player at the expense of Chelsea star Olivier Giroud.

“There is always competition,” he added. “You quote Giroud and Benzema, but for more than three years they were together. By making this choice, it is for the good of the France team, as it always does.

“The France team is supposed to be better with Karim Benzema, but not at all by eliminating Olivier Giroud. Do not forget, however, that for years the French team has obtained very good results: vice-champion of Europe, World Champion “.

He added: “Why now? I don’t have the capacity, nobody has, to go back and change anything. The most important is today and tomorrow.

“There were important steps. A very important one. We saw each other. We discussed it at length. After that, I had a long reflection to come to this decision today.

“I will not reveal a word of the discussion, that concerns us both. I needed it, he needed it I have already been confronted with difficult situations, I have always ignored my personal case.

“The France team does not belong to me, even if I am well aware that the responsibility that I have is important, by the choices that I have to make.”

Benzema’s national team history

The 33-year-old striker originally made his senior international debut as a teenager in 2007 during his time at Lyon and quickly became a regular for his country.

He amassed 81 caps and 27 goals before his exile began in 2016, appearing in the nation’s squads for Euro 2008 and 2012, alongside the 2014 World Cup.

However, despite ongoing success at Madrid, Benzema’s international career came to a screeching halt in 2016, with the striker subsequently stating that coach Didier Deschamps had bowed under “pressure from France’s racist element”‘, which the manager has long since denied.

He was also left off the 2018 World Cup squad and, in 2019, Benzema campaigned to be allowed to play for a different national team due to his France exclusion.

“Know that it will be me and me alone who decides when my international career is over,” he tweeted.

“If you think that I am finished, let me play for a country that I am eligible to play for and we will see.”

Benzema’s France absence dates back to the Valbuena sex tape scandal, with the Real Madrid star currently facing trial over his alleged involvement.

He is accused of trying to extort money from his fellow France international ahead of a friendly against Armenia five years ago.

Benzema, however, has denied the allegations repeatedly.

He told L’Equipe in 2017: “He said he would not have lodged a complaint if he knew I was involved in the story. For more than a year and a half, I’m his worst enemy, a bad guy, a thug, I have to be punished, dragged through the mud, my name and that of my family, in the dirt.

“It has been almost two years since I was forbidden to see my best friend [Karim Zenati], if not we go to prison, and he is quiet, but he must stop his crap, and I do not know why he keeps talking about me already.

“[Saying] I am his enemy, I wanted to take money from him… he really has to stop inventing, it makes me mad to keep on lying.

“He just had to tell the truth about what really happened, and he would not have had all of this.”

Starring at Real Madrid

While excluded from the French team, Benzema has been ever-present for Real Madrid, consistently proving himself as one of the world’s best strikers.

He’s scored at least 20 league goals in each of the last three seasons, taking his total to 278 goals in 558 games for the Spanish giants.

Since arriving, Benzema has won La Liga on three occasions, along with four Champions League titles, two Copas del Rey and four Club World Cups as part of an 18-trophy haul.