Benitez backs Benzema as a player and a person     

MADRID: Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez has restated his support for French striker Karim Benzema amid increasing criticism of Benzema’s off-field behaviour in his homeland.

Benzema has been charged in France for his alleged participation in a blackmail case involving international teammate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex-tape.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls added his voice to the debate on Tuesday by claiming sportsmen who don’t behave in an “exemplary” manner shouldn’t play for the national team.

However, Madrid have insisted they will stick by Benzema and Benitez insisted the 27-year-old remains a key player despite not starting either of Real’s last two outings.

“I consider him a fundamental player for us. On a personal level I have said before that he is a great guy and he has our support,” Benitez said on Tuesday.

“He is a key player for us because he is a reference up front and makes those around him play even better.”Former France international striker Djibril Cisse, who was himself interviewed by police investigating the sex-tape affair, said Benzema deserved to be assumed innocent until proven guilty.

“For the moment he’s being investigated but he hasn’t been judged and hasn’t been found guilty,” Cisse told AFP.


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