Karim Benzema of Real Madrid was given a one-year suspended sentence by a French court on Wednesday for his role in attempting to blackmail his former France teammate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex film.
Prosecutors had requested a harsher term for the 33-year-old footballer in connection with an extortion attempt in 2015, which resulted in Benzema’s five-and-a-half-year ban from the France team.
Benzema was not present in court in Versailles, a suburb of Paris, for the decision, which came just hours before Real Madrid‘s Champions League match against Sheriff Tiraspol in Moldova. His legal team quickly declared that they will file an appeal.
One of his lawyers, Sylvain Cormier, told reporters outside the courthouse that he was “very startled” by the judgment. The prosecution had requested a 10-month suspended sentence for Benzema, who was one of five people indicted in connection with an affair that shook the French national team.
Benzema missed his trial last month due to professional obligations. The judgment is unlikely to have an impact on his career, with Noel Le Graet, the head of the French football federation, stating that he may preserve his place in Les Bleus even if convicted, and Real Madrid expressing their support for their star player.
Benzema’s conviction, though, threw a veil over his spectacular return to the national squad after a years-long sabbatical earlier this year.
Since being recalled by France manager Didier Deschamps for the Euro 2020 finals, which have been postponed by a year owing to the coronavirus epidemic, Benzema has scored nine times, making him the fifth-highest scorer in the history of Les Bleus.
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