"It changes nothing"- FFF President declares Karim Benzema 'remains available for selection' despite guilty verdict in criminal offense

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Santander
FC Barcelona v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Santander
Caleb Kay

FFF president Noel Yves Marie Le Graet has spoken in support of Karim Benzema. This came after the Real Madrid and Les Blues striker was sentenced to a one-year suspended jail term.

The Frenchman was also slapped with a £63,000 ($84,149) fine. He was found culpable in a sex tape money plot to extort money from his international teammate, Mathieu Valbuena.

The initial charges were brought against Benzema in 2015. Consequently, both Benzema and Valbuena were purged from the national team.

Benzema, 33, was recalled into the setup by the French Football Federation for the 2020 Euros and was the main striker ahead of Olivier Giroud. Valbuena, 37, however, has never been afforded another chance to represent his country.

Benzema went on to register four goals in the event, just one behind top scorers Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrik Schick. However, France were eliminated before reaching the quarters.

It has now emerged that Benzema was convicted of complicity in attempted blackmail. French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet spoke to L’Equipe, to register the FFF's support for the star forward.

FFF President Le Graët announces that Karim Benzema being found guilty of a crime will have no impact on his position in the French national team:"He has the right to work. We can make a mistake, be sentenced and still get back to work."
“I do not know what Karim and his lawyers will decide, if the are going to appeal, but as it concerns the FA, there is no change. He remains available for selection, all whilst regretting the situation," Le Great told the Publication.

He further added:

"He did not play for several years with the French national team. This sanction changes nothing for me. He remains available for selection. Even if he doesn’t appeal, for me, it changes nothing. He has the right to work. We can make a mistake, be sentenced and still get back to work."
Karim Benzema has been handed a one-year suspended prison sentence and a €75,000 fine for his involvement in the attempted blackmail of former teammate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape.Full story:

He continued:

“I am happy with the player. He is performing well, he is conducting himself perfectly well. It is not a question that the Federation takes a more severe decision than the Justice Department. If Didier wants to select him, the FA will not oppose. There is not obstacle that prevents him from continuing to play for the French national team.”

What do we know about Benzema-Valbuena sex tape affair?

Olympiacos FC Training And Press Conference
Olympiacos FC Training And Press Conference

Benzema is believed to have first spoken to his international compatriot about the tape while at a French camp in October 2015. This happened ahead of a friendly against Armenia.

As reported by AlarabiyaNews on November 9, 2015, one of the men involved was alleged to have contacted Benzema’s relative. He did this to have the real Madrid striker convince Valbuena to pay £120,000($160,000) to destroy the explicit video.

Benzema has over the years claimed innocence. He continues to insist that he merely offered advice to Valbuena on how to deal with the situation.

Olympiakos winger Valbuena has however refuted such claims. He told the Versailles court:

"Football is my life. I knew that if this video came out it was going to be difficult for me with the French team. When he [Benzema] told me he wanted to talk to me, I did not think he would talk to me about that. When I had that conversation, I came out of the room, I was shocked. I felt that he insisted that I meet with a person who was to act as an intermediary. His trusted person (Karim Zenati). He was very insistent."

Other than Benzema, the other co-accused were Benzema's childhood friend, Zenati, Axel Angot, Mustapha Zouaoui, and Younes Houass. They were all found guilty and sentenced to varying sentences ranging from 18 months suspended to a two-and-a-half-year jail term.

The mastermind of the infamous plot, Zouaoui, is reported to have apologized to Valbuena.

This, though, is not the first time Karim Benzema has been embroided in a career-ending controversy. In January 2014, a French court dropped charges of sleeping with an underage call girl that had been brought against Benzema and Frank Ribery citing "insufficient proof."

Besides the sentence, Benzema has been on top of his form this season on the pitch. He has scored 10 goals and made seven assists across all competitions for Real Madrid. He is also among the favorites to win the 2021 Ballon d'Or.

30th January 2014 - Karim Benzema, initially charged with having sex with Dehar (then 16) in a Paris hotel in 2008, has always denied all allegations. Ribéry & Benzema were acquitted in their cases after a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence. Dehar never pressed charges.

Edited by Aditya Singh
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