PARIS (Reuters) - Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has not given up hope of a return to the French national team despite being frozen out by coach Didier Deschamps in the wake of a sextape scandal 18 months ago.
Benzema was suspended indefinitely in December 2015 after being charged with conspiracy to blackmail team mate Mathieu Valbuena over a sextape, but French federation president Noel Le Graet said last October Deschamps was free to call him up again.
The 29-year-old, who has not been picked since a 4-0 win over Armenia in October 2015, said he had still not received an explanation from Deschamps as to why he continues to ignore him.
”Others say I can be called up, not him. If the coach tells me to my face that it is only because of football, fine, I’ll continue to work,“ Benzema told French sports daily L‘Equipe on Wednesday. ”If there is another reason, he just had to tell it to my face and I‘m done with him.
“I asked the coach for an explanation. An explanation can be just two minutes long. It’s not complicated ... But I am still at the coach’s disposal. The coach knows this.”
France do not seem to have missed Benzema, impressing at Euro 2016 with Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet shining up front. The hosts lost to Portugal after extra time in the final.
However, Benzema said he was being left out for non-sporting reasons.
“A lot of people (in France) don’t want me to succeed,” he said. “I have the feeling that my name is being manipulated for reasons that have nothing to do with football.”
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Peter Rutherford