France coach Didier Deschamps refuses to discuss exiled star Karim Benzema's possible return

Luxembourg: A day after Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema demanded talks with the France coach over his ongoing international exile, Didier Deschamps flatly refused to discuss the matter.

"I have nothing to say about this now, simply because right now we're focused on Saturday's game (against Luxembourg) and Tuesday's game (against Spain)," Deschamps said when asked at a press conference if he had something to say to Benzema, who won 81 caps before his exile.

"My priority is the 24 players I have here and their schedule."

Karim Benzema and Didier Deschamps. Reuters

Karim Benzema and Didier Deschamps. Reuters

The 29-year-old Benzema has not been picked by Deschamps since October 2015 after being embroiled in a sex-tape blackmail scandal, which is likely to go to court later this year and which involves Benzema's former France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.

The scandal cost the unrepentant forward a place in France's Euro 2016 squad, and with the 2018 World Cup swinging into view Benzema wants a recall, while he continues to insist upon his innocence.

Benzema said he last spoke to Deschamps towards the end of last season.

"He told me he wouldn't pick me. At the time I didn't need any more explanation than that," Benzema told RMC radio station on Thursday.

"Now, on reflection, I'd like him to explain why it's still the case -- I ask myself that every day."

Investigators suspect Benzema of acting as an intermediary between the presumed blackmailers, including one of his childhood friends, and Lyon midfielder Valbuena.

Regarding France's campaign to get to Russia for the 2018 World Cup, Deschamps insisted he was not taking Luxembourg lightly despite the fact they are ranked 135th in the world by FIFA.

"They are very well organised and score almost every game. They are a team on the up. They are tight in defence and they move the ball well, they are clinical and there is a great deal of respect for this team," he said.

The 1998 World Cup-winning captain, now guiding France, did concede however that the match could provide an opportunity to hand an international debut to some of the younger players, who include Monaco pair Tiemoue Bakayoko and Kylian Mbappe.

"I have decisions to make, there is no established hierarchy so if one plays and not another don't read too much into it. But there could be debuts, every one of the 24 has a chance of playing," he said.

France lead their qualifying Group A with 10 points, ahead of the Netherlands and Sweden (seven), Bulgaria (six), Belarus (two) and Luxembourg (one).


Published Date: Mar 25, 2017 10:42 am | Updated Date: Mar 25, 2017 10:42 am


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