France manager Didier Deschamps has confirmed through his lawyer that there will be legal action against Eric Cantona after the former Manchester United forward suggested Hatem Ben Arfa and Karim Benzema had been omitted from the Euro 2016 squad due to their African heritage.
Benzema was ruled out of the tournament on home soil in April, as the French Football Federation cited his need “to work towards unity” pending the outcome of a legal investigation into an alleged plot to blackmail fellow international Mathieu Valbuena, which had seen him suspended from international duty in December.
Ben Arfa was omitted from the 23-man squad but can still featured in the tournament after he was selected among Deschamps’ stand-by.
The former Newcastle United star had a remarkable resurgence in the 2015-16 season – in which he scored 17 Ligue 1 goals to fire Nice to fourth place on the Ligue 1 log but it wasn’t good enough for Deschamps.
“Benzema is a great player, Ben Arfa is a great player,” Cantona told The Guardian.
“But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know. Like the Mormons in America.
“So I’m not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. Especially after [French Prime Minister, Manuel] Valls said he should not play for France.
“And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that.”
Cantona added when asked if he viewed the act as discrimination: “Maybe no, but maybe yes. Why not?
“One thing is for sure – Benzema and Ben Arfa are two of the best players in France and will not play the European Championship. And for sure, Benzema and Ben Arfa, their origins are north African. So, the debate is open.”
Deschamps lawyer Carlos Brusa confirmed to L’Equipe that his client was going to take the matter further.
“I will initiate action before the civil and criminal courts to punish these slanderous and defamatory comments that infringe impermissibly on Mr Deschamps’ integrity,” Brusa revealed