France chief opens door for Benzema return

PARIS: The president of the French Football Federation (FFF) has opened the door for striker Karim Benzema to return to the national team when legal proceedings against him for alleged blackmail have finished.

The striker was suspended indefinitely by the FFF in December 2015 after being put under formal investigation by a judge for an alleged plot to blackmail France team mate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex video.

Benzema denies any wrongdoing.

He subsequently missed the European Championship finals on home soil in June and July.

FFF president Noel Le Graet has said the striker will be available for selection, but the final decision will rest with coach Didier Deschamps.

"I am against lifetime punishments. Benzema needs to go through the courts, we won't take a risk, whatever it might be," the FFF president told L'Equipe on Sunday. "He already missed the Euros, that's something.

"The problem hasn't been raised for the moment, but he's available for selection," he added.

"The day when justice will be done, only then will Didier decide whether to integrate him or not."

No court date has been set in Benzema's case.

Benzema is yet to feature for Real Madrid in La Liga this season as he recovers from a hip injury.

Since the Euros, he has missed France's 3-1 friendly victory over Italy in Bari on Sept. 1 and will not play in their World Cup qualifier in Belarus on Tuesday.

The 28-year-old currently sits eighth on France's top-scorer list, having found the net 27 times in 81 appearances for his country.