Marcel Desailly says Karim Benzema cost himself a place in France’s Euro 2016 squad by becoming embroiled in a scandal involving international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.
Real Madrid striker Benzema would have been likely to start for the hosts at the European Championship, but was not considered by head coach Didier Deschamps under orders from the French Football Federation as an investigation continues into his role over an alleged sex-tape plot involving Lyon’s Valbuena.
Benzema claimed that Deschamps had “bowed to the pressure of a racist part of France” after his exclusion, and it remains to be seen if the absence of the centre-forward will cost Les Bleus as they seek to lift the Henri Delaunay Trophy for the third time.
But Desailly, who won the World Cup in 1998 and the Euros two years later with France, believes Benzema only has himself to blame for his exclusion.
“Unfortunately he pulled himself out of [contention] with all this media controversy towards the relationship with Valbeuna,” he told Omnisport.
“[It] is probably too much for the French Federation to keep someone who at any time could bring a problem, not directly from him but the media was going to use every single movement of Benzema to bring a story out of it.
“So it is their decision that it was better for him not to come. It’s always painful for a coach.”
Paul Pogba is expected by many to be crucial to France’s hopes, but Desailly hopes the Juventus star will be allowed to play his natural game, without being weighed down by the expectations of the nation.
“I think it is the other way around,” he said when quizzed on Pogba’s potential to stand out as the key man.
“We really want him to [bring] his skills and [replicate] what he is doing for Juventus. I think that he should be one player of the squad and that’s it.
“He should be [in] midfield, protect the defence and allow the offensive [players] to [utilise] his ability and skills.”
Rather than Pogba, Desailly singled out Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann as the man France will rely upon to tip the balance in their favour, as they prepare to open the tournament against Romania in Paris on Friday.
“Griezmann has to be the leader, he has to take into his hands the [creativity] of the team,” he said.
“Everyone knows the quality [of the] players but sometimes you just need to be top in one position.
“Not having the possibility to [contribute] defensively, he has to make a real statement.”
Marcel Desailly is leading Carlsberg’s Revolution to give away more UEFA EURO tickets to real football fans than ever before.
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