French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet has spoken of the “difficult decision” to omit Karim Benzema from France’s Euro 2016 squad.
It was announced on Wednesday that Real Madrid striker Benzema will not be considered for selection for this year’s tournament on home soil.
Benzema was suspended from national team duty by the FFF in December pending the outcome of a legal investigation into an alleged plot to blackmail international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.
Benzema has been charged with complicity in an attempt to blackmail and participating in a criminal conspiracy as part of a sex-tape plot involving Valbuena. Benzema denies any wrongdoing.
Le Graet has revealed that he and Didier Deschamps took several days to come to a final decision before the head coach informed Benzema, who was left “very, very sad”.
“It was a difficult decision to make, as you can well imagine,” Le Graet told L’Equipe.
“I repeat that I have affection for the boy, but we had to preserve the France team, the collective. During the Euros, we would have been in the following situation: ‘Benzema succeeds or Benzema fails.’
“Now this is a group that will succeed or fail. It was the right time to focus our attention, that of the coach and the media, on the other players. They are the ones that will play, and they deserve it.”
Le Graet went on to say that he hopes to see Benzema acquitted, and dismissed the notion that France will have to lower their ambitions for Euro 2016 without their star forward thanks to the likes of Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann.
“You saw the game against Barcelona that Griezmann had yesterday?” Le Graet continued, referring to the Atletico man’s double in his side’s 2-0 Champions League victory over Barca on Wednesday.
“You have seen the youngsters we have? Rarely has there been so much talent in attack for France.
“Frankly, I’m not worried. The objective remains the same. We are targeting the semis or better if possible.”