Eric Cantona is no stranger to making the odd controversial comment.
However, the Frenchman’s latest remarks might be his most shocking yet.
Cantona has suggested that the ethnicity of Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa may have been behind Didier Deschamps’ decision to leave the duo out of his squad for next month’s European Championships.
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“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 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.”
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The Guardian then asked Cantona if he was really accusing Deschamps of discriminating against the French duo, to which he replied: “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, incidentally, declined to comment when contacted by the Guardian.
Benzema omitted because of sex tape scandal
It was revealed back in April that Benzema would not be selected for France’s Euro 2016 squad.
The Real Madrid forward hasn’t represented his country since being questioned by police in November over allegations of a blackmail attempt against his France teammate Mathieu Valbuena.
“Didier Deschamps and [president] Noël Le Graët met to discuss the situation of Mr Benzema,” a statement on the French Football Federations’ website, per the Guardian, confirmed last month. “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.”
Expressing his disappointment with the news, Benzema tweeted: “Unfortunately for me and for all those who have always supported me. I am not selected for our Euro in France ...”
Ben Arfa has been superb this season
Ben Arfa, meanwhile, has rediscovered his form and confidence since joining Nice last summer.
In 35 appearances for the French club, the 29-year-old has scored an impressive 18 goals.
His eye-catching performances have even seen him linked with a move to Barcelona.
However, Deschamps couldn’t find room for the former Newcastle United star in his 23-man squad, naming him on the standby list instead.
Is Eric Cantona talking nonsense or does he have a point? Have your say by leaving a comment below.
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