Of all the football stories to emerge this week, maybe this year or maybe even this century, whatever the hell is happening with Mathieu Valbuena and Karim Benzema has to be the most bizarre.
Sex tapes are nothing new, we’re getting to a stage now where they’re barely worth a headline unless you’re triple-teaming a Bangkok hooker, while spouting racist slurs and farts in equal measure – then you get a front page – but alleged blackmail? That shit’s off the hook.
The French media are saying Benzema mentioned the tape to midfielder Valbuena during a national team training session at Clairefontaine last month. This is how I imagine that conversation went.
“So.. Mathieu, I hear there’s a tape going around of you up to your nuts in guts, now when you play the ball – put it in front of me, oui?”
Maybe not, or maybe so, either way whatever he said would have probably been in French.
There’s something in the French psyche that just can’t seem to accept the status quo and it leads to madness and brilliance in equal measure. Any history buff will tell you the French Revolution is one of the most interesting periods to study, but their sporting history is littered with an astonishing array of fallouts, revolts and agonising self sabotages.
Back in 2010, the World Cup squad refused to train following Nicolas Anelka’s expulsion for verbally abusing coach Raymond Domenech, Florent Malouda got axed for being too aggressive in training and Patrice Evra fell out with a fitness coach. Unsurprisingly, a team packed with more top talent than your average issue of Playboy went out in the group stages after all of that upheaval. In Euro 2012 Hatem Ben Arfa and then coach Laurent Blanc had a row that “got a bit heated”, I think that means “went bat shit crazy” in football speak, and the world will never forget Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt on Marco Materazzi… They even referenced it on Family Guy, before the Americans got interested in “soccer”.
It isn’t just football, they do it in rugby as well. At the Rugby Union World Cup reports emerged of a “discreet mutiny” against the coach. It wasn’t that discreet obviously, as it was all over the papers but there you go.
They’re getting it in early ahead of Euro 2016, and why not? Make a real show of it as they’re hosting the big shebang themselves. People will point to the fact they won the 1998 World Cup as hosts but even if this fizzles out to nothing it has already started to show cracks in the French camp. The difference here is this latest apparent spat isn’t a sporting fallout, it could potentially be much more sinister.
Boss Didier Deschamps has got the guillotine out and cut both of them from his latest squad, although Benzema has been banned from contacting Valbuena so that’s probably behind that. It is also worth noting Benzema’s lawyers have strenuously denied any wrongdoing on the striker’s part.
Make no mistake – losing Benzema would be a massive blow for France, Valbueuna would also be a big miss but not on the scale of the Real Madrid striker. There may be rumours about Benzema leaving Los Blancos in every transfer window but they’re all horseshit, probably based on the fact there are more fashionable forwards around. He’s a top frontman but if these allegations are true he won’t be playing at Euro 2016 – that I can guarantee.