Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said Friday that compatriot and star striker Karim Benzema has been hurt by his omission from the France squad for the European Championships due to a sex-tape scandal.
Benzema was indefinitely suspended from the France team in December after he was placed under criminal investigation over an attempt to blackmail France teammate Valbuena in relation to a sex-tape.
Both the player and the French Football Federation announced on Wednesday he will not be selected by Didier Deschamps for the tournament on home soil starting on June 10.
“I am not going to comment on the decision, that is not my place, but I can speak about the player because I spoke with him after,” said Zidane, who won a World Cup and European Championships with France as a player.
“He is very disappointed because he really wanted to play this European Championships, we all know the player he is and what he can bring.
“On a sporting level, those that love football can be disappointed, but at the same time I told him that he will have an exciting end to the season. It is important for him and he needs to rally quickly.”
However, Zidane appeared to be more critical of the decision to leave out France’s top active goalscorer in international football when asked if Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann’s fine form could compensate for Benzema’s absence.
“I am not saying this about Griezmann, I am saying it for the team in general that you need all your strongest players to go as far in the competition as possible.”
Zidane’s more immediate concern is putting more pressure on Barcelona at the top of La Liga as they return to league action away at struggling Getafe on Saturday.
Real will face Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals after a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick overturned a 2-0 first leg deficit against Wolfsburg in midweek to squeeze into the last four 3-2 on aggregate.
Madrid can move to within a point of Barca with a win as the Catalans, who have only won one of their last five games, host Valencia on Sunday.
However, Zidane is wary of complacency against a Getafe side that haven’t won in 12 games and sacked coach Fran Escriba on Monday with former Argentine international Juan Eduardo Esnaider taking charge for the first time.
“It seems like we are going to play and win easily, but nothing is easy when you play a team fighting for their lives and who have just changed coach too,” added Zidane.
“The players are concentrated. They know we’ve gone from being 13 points behind to four and we are not going to give up now.”