Olivier Giroud has questioned why Didier Deschamps did not give France’s senior players any advance notice of Karim Benzema’s return from international exile.
Real Madrid striker Benzema was named in France’s Euro 2020 squad in May following an absence of nearly six years.
He had been frozen out by head coach Deschamps since 2015 after becoming embroiled in a blackmail scandal involving international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena. Benzema has strenuously denied he was complicit in attempted blackmail.
Looking to bolster his attacking options, Deschamps decided the time was right to bring back Benzema ahead of the European Championship, but Giroud believes the move proved unsettling to France’s established way of playing.
Giroud has not featured for France since their last-16 elimination at Euro 2020, when the World Cup winners bowed out on penalties to Switzerland, and it remains to be seen whether the 35-year-old’s international career is over.
Addressing Benzema’s surprise return, Giroud told L’Equipe: “[It] created a tactical imbalance at the team level and in the way we play. I say this frankly, and without anything against Karim.
“The France team was able to overcome this problem of tactical adaptation much later. We have seen this, especially with the Nations League [which France won in October].
“But it took a long time. Karim quickly changed our way of playing which had been well established with certain offensive profiles for five years.
“The mix didn’t work overnight, especially before a competition like the Euros.”
Commenting on Deschamps’ decision to seemingly spring the selection on the rest of the players, Giroud said: “It was the will of the coach to proceed like that.
“He preferred that it not be heard. I can understand it. Now who am I in his eyes for him to call me first? He is the sole decision-maker.
“But I would have appreciated being warned, that he warned certain senior figures.”
Giroud is second on the list of France’s all-time leading scorers, netting 46 goals, of which 45 have come during Deschamps’ nine years at the helm.
Only Thierry Henry (51) has more goals for France than the former Chelsea and Arsenal forward, who is now at Milan.
He was absent from the squad that won the Nations League, when Benzema and Kylian Mbappe scored in the final against Spain.
“It was a weird feeling, even though I was happy for the guys in front of my TV,” Giroud said. “It’s hard not to experience that with this squad that I have known for a long time, and with whom I have shared so many beautiful things. Like any sensitive person, I had a twinge in my heart.”
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