Real Madrid and France striker Karim Benzema has spoken out in the sex-tape blackmail case. It is clear he wants to lead France to glory in the 2016 European Championships, but his chances appear slim.
Speaking to French broadcaster TF1 on Wednesday, Karim Benzema said he was a victim of "persecution" in the sex-tape blackmail case which has rocked French football.
"It is persecution," the Real Madrid star said in his first public statement on the scandal. "They are accusing me, they are dragging my name through the mud as if I was a criminal. These are horrible things."
Benzema, 27, has been charged with complicity to blackmail and conspiring to commit a criminal act for his alleged participation in a blackmail case involving international teammate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex-tape.
"I spoke with the heart with Mathieu Valbuena. When I head about blackmail, that we demanded money, it makes me mad... I don't need money," Benzema added on Wednesday.
Euro campaign in doubt
The blackmail case began in June, when Valbuena lodged a complaint with police after being telephoned by a man who said he had the sex tape. Four men, including a friend of Benzema, Karim Zenati, were charged. Benzema is alleged to have approached Valbuena about the images at a France national training camp on October 5.
"I am sorry I made a joke with my friend. I apologise to him (Valbuena) and his family," Benzema said to TF1 in reference to the police telephone tap of comments made by the striker that appear to mock Valbuena. The Lyon midfielder said last week to daily French newspaper "Le Monde" in his first public comments on the matter he was "very, very, very disappointed" by Benzema.
The scandal is a serious distraction to France before they host Euro 2016. "I hope it all turns out well for all of us, for Mathieu, myself and my mate (Zenati). I hope we get back in the France team and that we win the Euro," added Benzema, who is forbidden to have any contact with Valbuena. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls suggested on Tuesday only players with exemplary records should represent France at Euro 2016, which may hinder both Benzema and Valbuena further.