France Football Federation (FFF) have confirmed the exclusion of Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema from its selected squad for Euro 2016 campaign.
Benzema pleaded his case for a recall to the national side by posting a video on Facebook, but was told by the FFF on Wednesday that he will play no part in this summer’s tournament to be hosted by his country.
The Real Madrid striker has not played for his country since being questioned by police in November in connection to an alleged blackmail attempt against France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena, over a sex tape reportedly showing Valbuena and his partner.
Concerns over Benzema’s reintegration into the squad have led to the decision to rule out a recall. A statement on the FFF website read:
“[The head coach] Didier Deschamps and [president] Noël Le Graët met to discuss the situation of Mr Benzema. The president of the federation and the coach would agree that athletic performance is an important but not exclusive criterion for selecting the France national team.
“The ability of players to work towards unity, in and around the group, are also taken into account. As a result, Noël Le Graët and Didier Deschamps decided that Karim Benzema will not participate in Euro 2016.”
Bnezema told investigators he approached Valbuena about the tape on behalf of “a childhood friend” but claims he did not think he was doing anything wrong. His lawyer has insisted he was not party to any blackmail attempt. “He played no part, I repeat no part, in any blackmail or attempted blackmail,” Sylvain Cormier, Benzema’s lawyer, said earlier this year.
Benzema was left out of the France squad for the friendlies against Holland and Russia in March having last played for Les Bleus against Armenia in October. A restriction ordering the 28-year-old not to have any contact with Valbuena was lifted before the players were chosen.