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Le Graet: I love Benzema but I'm not dishonest

22:53 GMT+4 19/01/2016
The president of the French Football Federation has admitted his affection for the Real Madrid striker but says his organisation's handling of his criminal charges has been fair

French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet has admitted his "affection" for Karim Benzema and defended his organisation's handling of the striker's criminal charges.

Benzema has been charged with complicity in an attempt to blackmail and participating in a criminal conspiracy as part of an investigation into the alleged blackmail of his France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.

The 28-year-old has been suspended from national-team duty by the FFF pending the results of the investigation and could miss out on the European Championship in his home country later this year. 

"Those who say it has been badly managed, that is their problem," Le Graet told L'Equipe 21. "We are straight-up people in the Federation despite the fact we are often attacked.

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"This case is disappointing and it hurts us and, yes, there is affection [for Benzema]. But because I love him it's like I have become dishonest.

"But I manage this situation as I see fit. I've always been pretty close to Benzema because I knew about his childhood difficulties. 

"Maybe I have that side of me. But I have never seen such media treatment. Never."