The Real Madrid striker retires from Les Bleus at the age of 35 with 97 games played

Benzema ends his turbulent history with France

AFP/VALERY HACHE - In this file photo taken on October 9, 2015 France striker Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the friendly football match between France and Armenia at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice

Karim Benzema ends his controversial presence with France after playing 97 games, scoring 37 goals and only being able to win the 2021 Nations League against Spain. Benzema played in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, before the Valbuena affair broke out, and the 2008, 2012 and 2020 European Championships.  

The Real Madrid striker was hoping to be reunited with his country at the World Cup in Qatar and even become a champion with one of the best teams of the tournament, which managed to fight the final until penalties with Argentina. 

"I made the effort and the mistakes it took to be where I am today and I'm proud of that! I wrote my story and ours ends," Benzema wrote on social media in another message more steeped in mystery. The same tone he used before the final to make it clear that he did not want to be in that match either as a guest, as Pogba was, let alone as a player Deschamps could field.  

At the end of 2015, the Valbuena affair left Benzema very hurt in the eyes of French public opinion and outside the French national team. A complicated case of blackmail of footballer Mathieu Valbuena ended with Benzema convicted of involvement in extortion and sentenced to a one-year jail term and a fine of 75,000 euros.  


Benzema always defended that his role was that of an intermediary so that Valbuena's sex tape would not see the light of day and everything would be resolved as soon as possible. But his own team-mate pointed to him as one of those responsible and French football turned against him.  

Noel Le Graet, as president of the French Football Federation, and Didier Deschamps, as France coach, decided to remove Benzema from the national team while he was under indictment. The ensuing war put the Real Madrid striker at the feet of public opinion forever.  

While Benzema was considered a reprobate in his own country, the 9 was touching glory with Real Madrid by winning European Cups. He filled the goal-scoring role vacated by Cristiano and became Ballon d'Or winner the same year he reluctantly returned to the French national team.  

It is said that Macron himself was involved in Benzema's return to France. The best player of the moment could not stay at home in a historic event for his country and Deschamps had to bring him back to the team in May 2021, almost six years later.  


The atmosphere was never good, neither among his team-mates nor with the French federation itself, which did not want such a controversial player in blue. When he had to leave Qatar, it seems, some players were happy to see him go and Deschamps breathed a sigh of relief that his striker was Giroud and not Benzema, who was a problem for him in the XI.  

The French coach's own reaction when asked about Benzema in the press conference before the final with Argentina says it all. "Do I really have to answer that question?" he commented with an obvious gesture of annoyance.  

Rumours that the striker could be a fan in the stands in Lusail with other players such as Pogba or even on the bench for a few minutes were put to rest with another enigmatic post on Instagram where Benzema said he was not interested in such a plan.  


Now Benzema's stormy relationship with his country is over. He will never be welcomed back and time will rule on his future. For all these years, Real Madrid and Florentino Pérez have been his great protectors. Benzema has responded by scoring goals and redirecting his behaviour to have a life, at least, without media noise.  

At 35, the French-Algerian striker is likely to end his contract with the club in June 2023 and either end his career or play a few years in an exotic league. It does not seem that Lyon, his club of origin, or any other French team would bid for him.