Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane has lent his backing to striker Karim Benzema, who is to stand trial over his alleged involvement in the attempted blackmail of Mathieu Valbuena.
The case has been rumbling on since 2015 and cost the players the opportunity to feature at both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.
Benzema is accused of trying to extort money from his fellow France star prior to a friendly against Armenia.
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Zidane, though, is confident that justice will fall on the side of the prolific forward, who has been among Los Blancos’ ranks since 2009.
“Benzema has my complete support,” Zidane said on Friday. “I know it's not an easy situation. The important thing is what I see and he is well.
“These are difficult situations and we want it to be resolved as soon as possible. He detaches from all of that and focuses on his work, his family. He does what he likes and wants to make people happy when he is on the pitch.”
Benzema's lawyer responded to the news that his client is being charged with conspiracy to attempt blackmail by telling the Efe news agency: “The decision to try him is absurd and is unfair cruelty.
“Benzema has nothing to be ashamed of in this case.”
Valbuena's lawyer Paul-Albert Iweins told L'Equipe that the decision to go to trial is “the logical continuation of the instruction which perfectly established the participation of the various people”.
Despite his off-field issues, Benzema has remained a potent source of goals for Los Blancos, with 261 efforts recorded through 533 appearances. This tally puts him fifth in the all-time standings for the club, behind only greats like Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul and Alfredo Di Stefano.
Indeed, since Ronaldo departed the Bernabeu for Juventus in the summer of 2018, Benzema has been increasingly important for the club and has been the constant in their forward line over that period of transition.