Karim Benzema court case could gift Olivier Giroud long-term France future

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As long-time France favourite, Karim Benzema becomes further embroiled in yet another sordid story, and his future prospects on the national stage start to dim, it might spell a period of change in the French national team, which could lead all the way to the top.


Benzema has been under police investigation for allegedly 'helping' individuals with previous criminal convictions (including armed robbery), hold Lyon and France international Matthieu Valbuena to ransom and blackmail.

The details of the case now revolve around whether a training ground conversation between the two France players, as well as taped phone conversations between the blackmailers and the striker, indicate a level of complicity in the act of ransom.


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This is the latest in a long line of stories which have brought the institution of football in France into disrepute.

Recently, after Sepp Blatter announced he was stepping down as FIFA President amid significant corruption investigations, UEFA President and ex-France national team captain, Michel Platini announced he would run for the top job in international football. Almost immediately he was implicated in the wholesale corruption claims.

Upon being asked whether Platini had been brought in to authorities for questioning as a witness, Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber stated: "We didn't interview Mr Platini as a witness, that's not true. We investigated against him, as a witness and an accused person."

Corruption at the top level has always been accepted and ignored in French football, ever since old institution favourite Bernard Tapie was prosecuted for match-fixing in the same year his club won the inaugural Champions League, and latterly served six months behind bars for fraud.

However, this story comes after a host of seeded stories, accusations and court cases regarding France players - including Franck Ribery and Benzema himself - being acquitted on a charge of sleeping with an under-age girl, on the basis he could not have accurately determined her as being a minor. With friends like these, who needs enemies, as the Vichy government and now Matthieu Valbuena may well have said.


As reported by the BBC, Benzema's France future could be over given these latest developments. This, in particular, seems to be a step past what the nation could reconcile.

It leaves the national team with a hole to fill, and Olivier Giroud is the natural selection. Although he does not have the speed or skill of Benzema, his hold-up play and aerial ability are at least a match and he has been drip-fed into the national team in recent years.

Giroud, who moved from Montpellier to Arsenal in 2012, has become a fan favourite at the north London club, and is proving to be the first consistent force for them up front, possibly since Thierry Henry.

In his first three years in British football, Giroud scored 41 league goals and he is currently set to beat his previous top tally this year, already having netted six times in 11 games.

He has additionally played 40 games for his country, scoring 12 goals. Now could be the time for him to step up as the leader of France's frontline. If he does, and Benzema bows out, he could secure a place for many years to come, and become a talisman for his nation in 2016.


Aside from Giroud, who is an obvious selection up front and has history in the French camp, Alexandre Lacazette would be an interesting and quite suitable replacement for Benzema.

Lacazette has been the focus of transfer rumours to several Premier League clubs in the last year, including Giroud's Arsenal.

The 24-year-old has more of the playing style Benzema possesses and his form has been gathering pace at club level. On April 26 this year, he broke Lyon's all-time club record for goals in a season with his 26th in a victory against Reims and was crowned top goalscorer for Ligue 1. That's no small feat in a league containing players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani.

The only area Lacazette is lacking is in national team experience, where he has failed to make an impact due to the talent sitting ahead of him.

With one of them conceding their place, this may spell a new era of success for the talented player from Lyon. And, with a step-up in national team duties, as well as another high-scoring season seeming likely on the domestic front, it is almost impossible to imagine Lacazette staying at the central-France based club for much longer. Perhaps Real may be looking for a new striker in the near future too.


One person whose international future is also in doubt is Matthieu Valbuena himself. Stories of 'sex romps' are so common in football, this alone would not really impact a player's credentials ordinarily. In fact, a large contingent of the national team have been implicated in altogether worse sex-stories, and in fact - ironically - nothing untoward is implicated in this story.

Being the indirect party in forcing one of the best strikers in the world out of the national team, however, on the eve of the European Championships, is not going to make Valbuena popular with any of the team set-up, nor fans.

Football is particularly fickle, and it is likely that Valbuena, who is almost completely innocent in the case, will be blackmarked because of it.

Of course, the 31-year-old is not entirely innocent of any wrong-doing, as the identity of the person in the sex tape has not yet been released, and it is entirely unlikely to be his wife, the improbably named - Fanny Lafon. Valbuena may be dropped from that team too.

Additionally, at the end of October, Djibril Cisse was questioned about the blackmail scandal. It is not believed he was involved with the criminal act, but perhaps it is no surprise that a few days later he went crashing out of France's version of Strictly Come Dancing (Danse avec les stars). Although perhaps that was more to do with his particularly poor Samba.


If Deschamps is forced to cut Benzema, and France fail to perform in the European Championships, his time as national team manager is also likely to be over.

Unlike Raymond Domenech, who showed a complete lack of control of the team and inability to see how his actions could impact fans' perception of the manager during his reign in charge, Deschamps can decide how he is seen domestically as well as on an international level, and how he goes out. Particularly with Euro 2016 taking place on home soil.

So far, he sticks by Benzema, saying he is 'innocent until proven guilty'. Meanwhile Benzema's case goes on, with his guilt seeming more and more likely, the French players and the public watch on.

Ligue 1
Karim Benzema
Djibril Cisse
Real Madrid

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