A case of what could have been as Karim Benzema calls time on France

Benzema retires on his birthday after failing to replicate his club form for his nation.

  • The Real Madrid player announced his retirement from international service the day after the World Cup final.
  • On his birthday, Benzema announced his retirement on social media.
  • In 97 appearances for France, Benzema scored 37 goals.

France was above the skies when the news came from Karim Benzema, and a question sprang to mind: has he ever been more removed, metaphorically or physically, from Les Bleus? Retiring from international football at the age of 35 is not something that would normally get much attention. Benzema’s declaration, and the timing of it, produced a new earthquake, even as the aftershocks from Sunday’s World Cup final were still being felt.

_A case of what could have been as Karim Benzema calls time on France-1

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Why had it arrived the day after that historic game? Was it going to happen today, win or lose yesterday? Why had Benzema interrupted his own birthday to share the news? Had he waited till the team jet left Qatar before unleashing the bombshell? And, maybe most importantly, why was the announcement so brief? Only 160 characters (in its original French version) to close the book on a career that included 97 caps and 37 goals for Les Bleus.

I worked hard and made errors to get where I am now, and I’m proud of it! I’ve finished my tale, and ours is coming to a close,” Benzema said. The term “responsibility” refers to the act of determining whether or not a person is responsible for his or her own actions. Forget about counseling; here are your divorce papers. It seemed like a fitting conclusion to Benzema’s frequently contentious relationship with France’s national squad.

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Benzema’s club form was never replicated for France

_A case of what could have been as Karim Benzema calls time on France-2

His first and last caps were 15 years and 77 days apart, and his goal total ranks sixth on the team’s all-time record. He was a man of the match against Spain in last year’s Nations League final victory, but Benzema’s almost six-year hiatus from international action will most likely define him as a France player. Because what else do you recall? Sure, he was a starter at Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup, but France lost out in the quarter-finals both times. Yes, there was that Nations League victory, but such a smidgeon of success didn’t satisfy Benzema’s hunger for a proper platter.

He had been deprived of the chance of such a meal at Euro 2016, when France reached the final but lost to Portugal, and again at the 2018 World Cup when France defeated Croatia in the final. If it had come down to ability, Benzema would have been a part of those French feasts, but his exclusion from each squad, as well as his absence from national team service between the 4-0 win over Armenia on October 8, 2015, and the 3-0 win over Wales on June 2, 2021, was not about Benzema’s playing merits.

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After being found guilty of involvement in Mathieu Valbuena’s attempted blackmail, Benzema received a one-year suspended jail term and a €75,000 fine in November 2021. He consistently rejected the claims, but France kept him out. He was suddenly recalled in time for the postponed Euro 2020 finals, which were held last year, claiming he was “very happy” to be back, with Didier Deschamps adding that the door had been opened after protracted conversations. France then exited at the last-16 stage, despite Benzema making a significant impact on the field.

Benzema declares it quits on his birthday

_A case of what could have been as Karim Benzema calls time on France-3 (1)

And now, only 18 months later, the door that had been thrown open has been closed, with Benzema, rather than the FFF, closing off his international career. His last appearance came in a 1-0 Nations League loss at home to Croatia in June. He was supposed to be part of France’s World Cup team, but after aggravating a thigh injury on the day of the competition, it was revealed that he will not participate in Qatar 2022.

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So what occurred for it to end this way, with obviously little love on either side?
“It’s a massive problem,” former France defender Eric Di Meco told RMC Sport. A man who spends so much time at Real Madrid is so powerful, is a Ballon d’Or winner, and has never been able to express himself in France. He bears responsibility, and it’s wonderful that he admits to making errors. But, at the level of the France team, it’s a shambles.” Of course, France will endure. They should have Kylian Mbappe for the next decade, rewriting history.

Zidane – Bezenma the finest French striker of all time

_A case of what could have been as Karim Benzema calls time on France-3

But it may take an expert to assess what France has lost with the retirement of Benzema. Zinedine Zidane, who may perhaps be the next France coach, and probably sooner rather than later, was asked after a Real Madrid game in December 2020 if he believed Benzema to be the best French striker of all time. As far as I’m concerned, yeah,” Zidane said. “He’s demonstrating it with all he’s accomplished. He’s been at Real Madrid for a long time, has almost 500 games under his belt, and the goals… The awards he’s earned really speak for themselves.

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For me, he’s the finest there is, no question about it. After Zidane departed from Madrid, Benzema’s performances skyrocketed, with 44 goals in 46 games for Madrid last season, winning the Champions League and La Liga as captain. High up in the sky on Monday, the retirement news presumably reached Deschamps and the returning France team. Benzema’s story of ‘here’s what you might have won’ has come to a tragic end, with Deschamps certainly anticipating press questions about the striker upon his arrival in Paris. In that regard, plus can change.



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