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Benzema speaks on his exile from the France national team

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Karim Benzema has opened up on his exile with the French national team, admitting it was a difficult period for him.

Karim Benzema has admitted his exile from the French national team was ‘morally hard’ but is keen to draw a line under his contentious relationship with the team ahead of his return.

The 33-year-old striker had been cast aside by manager Deschamps since 2015 following his alleged role in the sex-tape blackmail of former France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.

But Benzema was recalled to the French squad for this summer’s European Championships after some good form for club side Real Madrid, with the experienced forward insisting he never gave up hope of playing for France again.

Benzema told a press conference on Sunday: “I never stopped believing it, I never gave up, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I was very disappointed, it was morally hard.”

“There were a lot of obstacles, It’s part of my career, I’ve always fought, and that’s what it takes to hope to come back. I’m rewarded.”

Benzema is suspected of encouraging Valbuena to co-operate with blackmailers, who threatened to release an intimate video in which he featured.

Investigators who charged Benzema believe he was approached by a childhood friend to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with the blackmailers. Instead, Valbuena informed the police.

The Real Madrid star added: “There are always regrets. I want to say that what happened has happened. There are always regrets, but you can’t go back.”

“What matters most to me is what you have done on the football field, I am focused to the max on what I can bring to this team. This is what I have in my head as ambition.”

When asked to say thank you to the France boss for bringing him back in, Benzema joked: “I think I already told him. You want me to say it here? Thank you Didier.”

“We have already had a discussion, it has been said. I’m super happy to be here.”