FFF presidential candidate vows to bring Karim Benzema back into France fold

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Jean-Pierre Papin has lauded Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema as the best of his generation.

A candidate for the presidency of the French Football Federation (FFF) says he would demand the recall of Karim Benzema to the national team, despite the Real Madrid striker facing trial over a blackmail case involving a former France team-mate.

Michel Moulin is among the candidates running against incumbent Noel Le Graet, and he has promised that he would work to restore the outcast Benzema to the France team.

The 33-year-old has not figured for Les Bleus since November 2015, when the last of his 81 caps was earned.

Benzema is to face trial over his alleged involvement in the attempted blackmail of Mathieu Valbuena relating to a sex tape said to feature the Olympiakos star. The former Lyon forward is accused of trying to extort money from his fellow France international ahead of a friendly against Armenia five years ago.

Benzema, who denies any wrongdoing, has been overlooked for international duty with France ever since the allegations were first made against him, during which time Les Bleus have become world champions after triumphing at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

However, Moulin has now said he would demand that manager Didier Deschamps restore Benzema to his squad.

In an interview with Le Figaro, Moulin said: “On the management of Karim Benzema, who is a great striker, Didier Deschamps, he is an employee of the FFF. If above him, he is told to play Benzema, he must make him play.”

Benzema has spoken out on the blackmail case on a regular basis in recent years, with the Frenchman accusing Valbuena of dragging his name “through the mud”.

He told L’Equipe in May 2017: “He said he would not have lodged a complaint if he knew I was involved in the story. For more than a year and a half I’m his worst enemy, a bad guy, a thug, I have to be punished, dragged through the mud, my name and that of my family, in the dirt.

“[Saying] I am his enemy, I wanted to take money from him, he really has to stop inventing, it makes me mad to keep on lying. He just had to tell the truth about what really happened, and he would not have had all of this.”

Benzema has remained a prolific source of goals for Real Madrid, with 261 strikes in 533 appearances. He ranked eighth in Goal 50 last November.

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