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The white striker has been locked in international limbo with France and seems eager to play for another team, but can it be done?
Karim Benzema He is one of the most accomplished and prolific strikers in world football, shining to Real Madrid over the last decade.
However, their success at the club level, which includes four Champions Leagues, three League titles and four Club World Cups, has not been reflected internationally with France.
The Madrid leader missed Euro 2016, in which France, the hosts, were defeated finalists, and was forced to watch with envy as Les Bleus clinched their second world title at the 2018 World Cup.
With no end in sight to his exclusion from France, there have even been suggestions that he could play for another national team, but is it possible? Aim take a look at the history.
- Why doesn’t Karim Benzema play for France?
- In which international teams can Karim Benzema play?
- Can Karim Benzema change international team?
Why doesn’t Karim Benzema play for France?
Benzema’s exile from the France team began in 2015 in the wake of a bitter Sex tape dispute with former Les Bleus teammate Mathieu Valbuena.
The Madrid striker has not been part of the national team since then, having apparently been suspended indefinitely by the president of the French Football Federation (FFF), Noel Le Graet.
Despite repeated claims by French icons such as Zinedine Zidane in 2019 that Benzema deserved a recall from the international team, Le Graet insisted that the “adventure with France is over” for the forward.
That pronouncement by the head of the FFF provoked a furious response from Benzema, who later challenged the federation to allow him to play for another country.
“Noel, I thought you were not interfering with the national coach’s decisions!” The forward wrote on Twitter in 2019.
“Know that it will be me and only me who will decide when I finish my international career.
“If you think I’m done, let me play for a country where I’m eligible to play and we’ll see.”
Noël I think you will not interfere in the coach’s decisions! Say that it is me and only I who will be a term in my international career.
If you think I’m done, let me play for one of the countries I’m eligible for and we’ll be proud.
– Karim Benzema (@Benzema) November 16, 2019
Later in 2021, in the run-up to Euro 2020, Zidane reiterated his bewilderment at Benzema’s continued exclusion from the French panel, but admitted that it suited him well as club boss.
“How can we understand why Karim is not going with the national team? There are many who do not understand it,” Zidane told reporters before France’s first qualifying match for the 2022 World Cup against Ukraine.
“But it is better for me as a Madrid manager that he stays. He has done a great job for us.”
Others have echoed Zidane’s sentiments, with seven-time Ligue 1 winner and former French international Jean-Michel Larque suggesting the exclusion should end.
“I don’t blame Deschamps for what happened in the past, I just ask him to forgive Benzema,” Larque said. RMC Sport.
“I think after all that he (Benzema) has been subjected to, offering a pardon to the player would make Deschamps a bigger man.”
Eric Cantona is another former French star who has expressed his desire to see Benzema in blue again, saying, in 2017: “I want to see Karim Benzema in the French team and, in my opinion, I am not the only one.”
In which international teams can Karim Benzema play?
Benzema is currently only eligible to play France, strictly speaking. The reason for this is that he has played competitively at the senior level for Les Bleus, which means he is tied for the salary cap.
A general principle of FIFA’s eligibility rules for national teams is that once a player has been competitively internationalized at the top tier, he cannot be changed to a team for which he might also have been eligible to play.
Changes to the eligibility rules in late 2020, which have expanded opportunities to switch in specific circumstances, have nothing to do with Benzema’s potential eligibility for another team.
In addition to France, Lyon-born Benzema was previously eligible to play Algeria thanks to his family ties to the North African country.
In 2006, before his full debut for France, he was approached by representatives of the Algerian Football Association (FAF) who tried to persuade him to play for them.
However, he declined the invitation and said RMC: “Algeria is the country of my parents and it is in my heart, but I will play for the France team.”
Interestingly, following Benzema’s comments in November 2019, Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi simply He replied: “I am very happy with the players I have.”
Had Benzema not played competitively for France or any other national team, he might well have been eligible to represent Spain due to his long stay in the country while playing for Real Madrid.
The forward has lived in Spain for more than a decade and could apply for Spanish citizenship, which is the first step to be able to represent La Roja.
Unfortunately for Benzema, an international team change is not likely any time soon, unless FIFA makes an exceptional decision in his favor.
The fact that you have played competitively in the senior category for France means that you are not free to change allegiance to another team under the universally applied eligibility rules of world football.
FIFA’s position not to allow players with international matches to change their affiliation to an international team was maintained in 2018 when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled against Munir El Haddadi.
The former Barcelona striker played only once for Spain, in a competitive match in 2014, and wanted to switch allegiance to Morocco. However, his case was dismissed by FIFA and later by CAS.
FIFA updated the eligibility rules in 2020 and, although the organization now allows changes to occur after competitive appearances in some cases, it appears that Benzema does not meet the requirements.
Benzema has played 81 times for France (about half of which have been competitive matches), scoring 27 goals, a strike count that places him in the top 10 all-time scorers in national team history.
However, he has not played for Les Bleus since a 4-0 friendly win over Armenia in October 2015, in which he scored twice.
Under current eligibility rules, the only way Benzema will be able to change the loyalty of the national team is if he suddenly loses his French nationality without his consent or against his will.
Otherwise, it would require a rule change or an extraordinary assignment made just for him by FIFA.