The biggest football story to have splashed across the front pages of French newspapers recently revolves around Karim Benzema, following reports the striker is under investigation for allegedly blackmailing countryman Mathieu Valbuena.
Much of the attention has been focused on the Real Madrid star, who was detained in connection with the release of a sex tape.
In all this, Valbuena is the seldom considered victim. Regardless of whether there is any truth to the allegations, the added press coverage is unlikely to be of any comfort to the Lyon player, with new information emerging by the hour.
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The attacking midfielder looked far from himself when his side lost 2-0 at home to Zenit St Petersburg in the Champions League last week, especially compared to his previous two stellar performances against Troyes and Toulouse in Ligue 1 – before the news broke.
Whatever the extent, the current investigation has clearly had some effect. Under the ever-watching eye of the media, he reportedly neglected to partake in training late last week. He was also due to make an appearance on Lyon’s official television channel but pulled out.
It has already had an effect on his career as he, along with Benzema, have been left out the most recent France squad to face Germany and England. While the Real striker can be excused for lack of fitness, Valbuena was deliberately left out, regardless of form.
France manager Didier Deschamps admitted his decision was based on personal reasons.
He said, according to the Independent: "It is my decision. Mathieu Valbuena is not in the best mental place. I want to let him breathe."
Lyon boss Hubert Fournier decided against emulating such a move prior to their weekend clash with St Etienne - one that paid off given their resounding 3-0 victory.
One result does not mean to say Valbuena has turned a corner, though, with his focus still likely to be elsewhere, much to the potential detriment of Lyon and their league campaign.
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