- Real Madrid striker picked up injury
- Returned to training during tournament
- Recall option snubbed by Les Bleus
WHAT HAPPENED? The Real Madrid striker, fresh from collecting a prestigious Ballon d’Or award, was ruled out of Les Bleus’ plans in Qatar on the eve of the tournament after suffering an untimely injury. He did return to training in time to figure in the knockout stages, as Didier Deschamps’ side ultimately came up short in an epic final clash with Argentina, but there were rumours of senior stars in France’s ranks blocking any potential recall – with said snub ultimately leading to Benzema announcing his international retirement.
WHAT THEY SAID: Lloris, as national team captain prior to his own retirement announcement, was said to have led the calls for Benzema to be ostracised, but the Tottenham goalkeeper has told l’Equipe of those accusations: “There are a lot of things that have been said, which are either false or ridiculous: the atmosphere was very good before he left, and very good after. But we would all have preferred that the Ballon d'Or winner, when we see what he has brought since his return, could be with us. He’s still a major asset!
“To say that we would have pushed for him to leave is completely false, and I do not see how we would benefit from that. He was essential for 18 months, he helped us win the Nations League, his return would only have been positive. It is really dishonest to claim that some of us were in favour of his departure. When you approach a World Cup, you want to do it with your best players.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Lloris added on Benzema’s departure, which came on the back of picking up a thigh injury in training: “For Karim, we were all a little surprised. What we as players experienced with his departure is this: you train in the evening, he gets injured, you go to bed, and the next day when you get up you are told that Karim has left. Everything happened so quickly. It was presented as a medical package, and we, the players, discovered it in the morning, in a period when something was happening almost every day.”
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WHAT NEXT? Benzema has called time on his international career after earning 97 caps for France, with 37 goals recorded across those outings, and the 35-year-old frontman is now fully focused on club matters with Real Madrid – with 2018 World Cup winner Lloris now in a similar position at Spurs after representing his country on a record-setting 145 occasions.