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 By Ian Holyman

Karim Benzema: France career over as long as Didier Deschamps is coach

France's Didier Deschamps stated he will not change his mind on keeping Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema out of his squad.
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Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has told Canal+ his international career is on hold as long as Didier Deschamps remains France boss.

Despite winning back-to-back Champions Leagues and the La Liga title with Madrid in the last two seasons, Benzema has not featured for his country since October 2015.

Initially sidelined due to his name being caught up in an ongoing French police investigation into alleged extortion of his international teammate Mathieu Valbuena, Benzema has remained absent despite Deschamps since insisting the forward was still in his thoughts.

Benzema, who was born in Lyon to a family with Algerian origins, accused Deschamps of bowing "to the pressure from a racist part of France" when he was omitted from the Euro 2016 squad despite scoring 31 goals in 42 competitive outings for Madrid in the 2015-16 campaign.

He has since demanded explanations from Deschamps that have not been forthcoming, and with the France coach having recently extended his contract to 2020 after clinching a place at next summer's World Cup, Benzema, 29, is all but resigned to his international exile being extended.

"It's a vague story. There was that sex tape affair, it was also because of that. Personally, what goes beyond sport you have to put to one side, you need the best to win trophies," Benzema said.

"I don't have any problem in any case. You mustn't be silly, though. As long as Deschamps is the national team coach, I won't have a chance of coming back, that's what I think anyway. It's not a question of calling him or not. I had him on the telephone before the Euro. I respect him and I have always respected him. At the start, he showed me a lot of respect, then he turned his back on me just like that. It's hurtful."

Karim Benzema has not played for France since October 2015.

Deschamps' freezing out of Benzema is in stark contrast to the attitude of Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, who has maintained the ex-Lyon forward as part of his first-choice front line.

Benzema has often worked in the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo, but he says he loves playing alongside him. 

"We get on well. He's someone who scores 50 goals for you, so you say to yourself that he plays for himself, but if you look at the stats, he makes a lot of assists," Benzema said. "He likes scoring goals, I love playing with him.

"He is able to play one-touch football. He's more egotistical than me, but that's normal. He has such ambitions that he does everything to achieve them. And it doesn't bother me. When I make a run, he looks for me, we look for each other. It's good for Madrid."

Benzema also gave his opinion on the current situation of his former Lyon teammate Hatem Ben Arfa, who appears to have no future with PSG after being frozen out under Unai Emery.

"I have always said that Hatem's talent is on the same level as [Lionel] Messi's. That is not a political answer," he said. "When I see him like this with PSG, I feel bad for him.

"When he joined Nice, he showed that he wanted to make a difference and that he wanted to be with the ball. Today, he is back to zero again. It is a bit of a mess for him. I hope that he will bounce back. After that, there is his age, though. Perhaps he is not motivated the same way that he was two years ago."

Like Benzema, Ben Arfa no longer features in Deschamps' plans for France at international level.

ESPN FC's Paris Saint-Germain correspondent Jonathan Johnson contributed to this report.

Ian is ESPN's French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman

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