AP Photo/Bernat Armangue
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema is to make his return to the French national team at this summer’s Euro championship.
Benzema, 33, last played for France in October 2015 but was sidelined after he was accused of involvement in a sextape affair against fellow player Mathieu Valbuena. The trial is to take place in October.
“I am so proud of my return to the French team and of the trust placed in me,” Benzema wrote on Twiter.
“Thank you to my family, my friends, my club, and you … and to all those who have always supported me and given me strength on a daily basis,” he added.
Benzema has 81 caps and 27 goals for Les Bleus. His last goal was a brace against Armenia (4-0) on 8 October 2015 in Nice.
He has enjoyed a successful season with Real madrid, scoring 29 goals in 45 games.
His coach, former French international Zinedine Zidane, said recently: “I think he’s the best French centre-forward in history.”
“He has played for Real Madrid for a very long time, he has made more than 500 appearances, all the goals… At the end of the day, his record, everything he has achieved here speaks for itself.”
Since arriving in 2009, he has scored almost 300 goals for the Spanish club. He was also crowned the best player in the Spanish league in 2020, becoming Real’s key attacking asset after the departure in 2018 of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. And he has just been crowned best French player abroad at the traditional UNFP Trophies in France.
Even the president of the French federation Noël Le Graët has recognised this: “In my opinion, he has had the best season of his career” in 2019-2020, he agreed last summer in an interview with RMC Sport.
Before Euro 2016, his exclusion was justified by “the exemplarity and preservation of the group” in a statement co-signed by coach Didier Deschamps and Le Graët.
In response, Benzema had accused the coach of “caving in under pressure from a racist section of France”, two days before Deschamps’ Breton residence was vandalised, with a tag calling him a “racist”.
Deschamps said on Tuesday after announcing the squad: “I’ve always put my personal case aside, the France team doesn’t belong to me, it’s above everything.”
Sevilla FC defender Jules Kounde, who has never been called up before, and Monchengladbach striker Marcus Thuram (3 caps) are also part of this year’s Euro selection.
Barring injury, goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris, Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Lucas Hernandez, N’Golo Kanté, Paul Pogba, Adrien Rabiot, Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann will be on the pitch as well.
Olivier Giroud is also included in the list, the final version of which is due to be submitted to UEFA on 1 June, despite his extremely limited playing time at Chelsea.
The 34-year-old, who is the second-highest scorer in Les Bleus’ history (44 goals in 107 matches), will be in the squad along with Wissam Ben Yedder and Ousmane Dembele, two other strikers called up by Deschamps. Anthony Martial, recently injured, is not called up.