It reads like the plot of a Hollywood heist movie.
And yet this remarkable tale involves a handful of footballers that have won the biggest prizes that their sport has to offer.
With all of the legal shenanigans ongoing, there’s not much point writing too deeply about Karim Benzema and the alleged blackmail plot that has seen him blackballed from the France set-up.
But the Real Madrid forward has been welcomed back in the fold by head coach Didier Deschamps, and he may just be the missing ingredient that guides Les Bleus to glory at Euro 2020.
Benzema hadn’t pulled on the blue shirt of France since 2015 prior to his recall, with the details of his exile sketchy to say the least. Apparently, and we use that term loosely, his former France teammate Mathieu Valbuena appeared in a video of a rather fruity nature that he, naturally, didn’t want released into the public domain.
But the tape fell into the hands of blackmailers, who attempted to extort Valbuena to prevent them from leaking the vid online.
And here’s where it gets complicated. According to reports, Benzema was then blackmailed by the blackmailers (apparently one of them was a childhood friend) to blackmail Valbuena – hope you’re still following at the back – and so he became an accessory to the ‘crime’ in question.
Benzema has intimated that a corrupt police officer is also involved – making the whole episode play out like something you’d see on as a TV box set.
He was removed from the national team and never seen again, and the 33-year-old will stand trial for his part in the alleged blackmail plot this October.
But for the time being at least, he will return to spearhead the France attack. And that could make all the difference as Les Bleus seek to follow up their World Cup win in 2018 with a triumph in the Euros.
Back in Blue
While admitting he had ‘regrets’ about what has happened in the past, Benzema has admitted he’s simply looking forward to a new chapter in his career – one he always felt would come.
“I never stopped believing it, I never gave up, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I was very disappointed, it was morally hard,” he said.
“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.”
In winning the World Cup in 2018, France used Olivier Giroud as a springboard for attacks – firing the ball in his general direction and getting the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann in and around him.
But Benzema is a much more mobile presence in attack, and his dovetailing with those fleet-footed wide players and Pogba in behind him could prove to be a devastating frontline.
France are the 4/1 favourites with the leading bookmakers to lift the Euro 2020 trophy, while Benzema himself is as long as 16/1 to win the Golden Boot award. In a season in which he plundered 29 goals for Real, redemption may just be on the horizon in the most profitable of ways.