Madrid (AFP) – Zinedine Zidane has said Karim Benzema deserves to be recalled for France after the striker’s absence from the national team continued on Thursday when the latest squad was announced.
Benzema has not played for France since 2015, when he was placed under formal investigation over his alleged part in an attempt to blackmail fellow French international Mathieu Valbuena.
Coach Didier Deschamps has maintained Benzema’s omission is in the best interests of the French squad, who won last year’s World Cup without him.
But France are not blessed with elite strikers while Benzema continues to excel for Real Madrid. He has scored nine goals in 14 appearances already this season.
“He has always wanted to play for France,” said Zidane, who played 108 times for Les Bleus and is considered one of the country’s greatest ever players.
“To be honest I don’t know exactly what is going on but from a football point of view, he is the best and I think he should definitely have a place in the national team.
“It’s beyond my position here but football-wise, there is no debate.”
Real Madrid play away at Eibar on Saturday as they look to sustain momentum after Wednesday’s 6-0 thrashing of Galatasaray in the Champions League.
Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez will not be available again but both players have resumed light training and could play for Wales and Colombia respectively over the international break.
Bale’s recovery from a calf injury could prove particularly timely for Wales, who may need to beat both Azerbaijan and Hungary in order to qualify for Euro 2020.
“They have done something on the training pitch but they are not available to play for us,” Zidane said.
“They are not at the same pace as their teammates and if they haven’t trained with their teammates they cannot play. I’m not saying they can or cannot play for Colombia or Wales. They will go and they have six days to see if they are fit enough.”
Zidane also responded to Paris Saint-Germain’s sporting director Leonardo, who said Zidane’s comments about Kylian Mbappe having a dream to play for Real Madrid were “annoying”.
“There isn’t much to say, I only said what he (Mbappe) has said, that one day it is his dream to wear the Real Madrid shirt,” Zidane said.
“I will say it again if I want to. Leonardo has his opinion but when I get asked I will also give mine.”