The first ever Middle-East State and winter FIFA World Cup has just concluded all 64 matches in Qatar, with Argentina emerging the winner of the trophy, after a penalty-shootout win over France. But that is not Les Bleus’ only loss in recent times, as one of the French greats, Real Madrid captain Karim Benzema, had just retired from country duties, as per an announcement on his official Instagram account.
The Lyon-born Ballon d’Or winner broke the news on his 35th birthday, and less than 24 hours after France’s defeat against the eventual champion, La Albiceleste.
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The Best of the Galáctico Trio
Karim Benzema has always been the brightest French star of his generation since he made it into the senior team in the French league in 2004. With 66 goals scored for both Lyon clubs, his extraordinary skills and scoring abilities attracted scouts from major clubs all across Europe, with Real Madrid getting his signature at last, upon its president Florentino Pérez’s intention of building another era of the Galácticos.
He had his ups and downs during his 14 seasons with Los Blancos, but longevity and consistent performance especially after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo allowed him to transit into an even deadlier striker upfront. Furthermore, Benzema’s contribution in goals and assists wheeled Real Madrid to capture five UEFA Champions League titles within the span of nine years, in which his 44 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions last season propelled his status to a Ballon d’Or winner.
A Roller-Coaster Ride with the National Team
His exceptional form has also been transferred to the international level since making his senior debut in 2007, with 27 goals scored during the nine-year period up to 2015. Such a good form made many to tip him to be the next top scorer for France and he was expected to push France to a UEFA European Championship win in their home turf in 2016. However, a series of unpleasant events unfolded in 2015 caused him to be axed from the squad due to allegations about him harming the harmony of the team via a blackmail towards teammate Mathieu Valbuena in relation to a sex-tape. Les Bleus eventually lost to Portugal in the final, and Karim’s relationship with the national team as well as head coach Didier Deschamps went to an all-time low.
He continued to miss France’s competitive and friendly matches for more than five years, until May 2021, when France announced that Benzema was included in the 26-man squad for UEFA Euro 2020. He was ranked among the second-best scorers of the tournament with four goals, but France lost out to Switzerland in the Round of 16, after Kylian Mbappé missed France’s last penalty during the shoot-out. Despite the disappointment, he stayed with Les Bleus for international duties and played an important role in its 2020/2021 UEFA Nations League win as well as the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, until an injury a day before the competition started occurred that ruled him out of the tournament.
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“It Does Not Interest Me”
There were speculations that he had recovered in time and can feature some parts for the French squad against Argentina in the final, but head coach Deschamps iterated that he only wanted to work with the players that were in his squad, prompting rumours about the unhealthy relationship between the forward and the 54-year-old French coach. Benzema’s presence for France would have been vital as France was hit by injuries and illnesses that weakened the squad depth, especially at the attacking end. He posted a picture on his social media platform that read “Ça ne m’intéresse pas (It does not interest me)” and people cannot help but link it to the coach’s ultimate decision.
Karim Benzema’s retirement from France is a huge blow to the country, and it happened after Les Bleus losing a World Cup final agonisingly. But considering his age and fitness level, it is best for him to remain focused for his club endeavours after all.
(Photo Credits: Atalayar)