The impossible has happened – Karim Benzema is back in the France squad for Euro 2020.
The superstar Real Madrid striker had been absent for five years following a scandal involving former teammate Mathieu Valbuena, in which it’s claimed that Benzema stood by and allowed him to be blackmailed.
The situation has prevented him being involved in the national team since 2016, meaning he missed the Euro 2016 finals and the 2018 World Cup win among other things.
But manager Didier Deschamps has made the stunning decision to bring the 31-year-old back to the fold for the upcoming European Championships to bolster an attack short on goals domestically this season.
Olivier Giroud has been the man to lead the line in Benzema’s absence, but the 34-year-old has been limited to just 1003 minutes across the Premier League and Champions League this season. Wissam Ben Yedder has been much better, scoring 20 goals in Ligue 1, while Antoine Griezmann has managed 19 in all competitions for Barcelona.
But then after Kylian Mbappe’s stunning 40 goal season with PSG, Benzema is the next highest scoring Frenchman with 29 goals in 44 games for the Spanish side.
He is the highest scoring Real Madrid player since Cristiano Ronaldo left the club in 2018, scoring more than double the next highest player and was the main man as they lifted La Liga last season and took the race to the final day this season.
He has consistently performed to a world class level, with the added string to his bow that he can heavily influence games as an attacker without getting a goal or assist. He has worn the captains armband in Madrid a lot too, showing true leadership qualities and is experienced yet still in his prime.
All the ingredients were right, but squad politics meant he couldn’t be considered – until now.
He’s become so influential and important for his club side in a position where the national team need more big characters, that it was the elephant in the room at every squad announcement.
Benzema’s inclusion elevates France’s position as favourites at the tournament, ahead of the likes of Portugal, Belgium, England, Italy and Spain. Not only is he a big name and a superstar, but he’s a world class team player.
Mbappe, Griezmann, Pogba, Ousmane Dembele and Kingsley Coman will all get even better with Benzema playing in and around them and France now have another match-winner amongst their ranks.