Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane has expressed his displeasure over French president Francois Hollande’s criticism of Karim Benzema.
The Madrid striker has not played for France since he was charged by a court in Versailles with complicity in an attempt to blackmail and participating in a criminal conspiracy as part of an investigation into an alleged plot to extort money from France midfielder Mathieu Valbuena last November.
Benzema was not considered for selection for Euro 2016 and, despite national team boss Didier Deschamps being permitted to pick him for this season’s World Cup qualifiers, he is yet to make his return to the international fold.
In extracts from his new book “Un president ne devrait pas dire ca” (A president shouldn’t say that), Hollande offered a general critique of French footballers and their intellect, while turning particular focus on to Benzema.
“Morally, he’s not an example, Benzema,” he wrote.
Speaking ahead of Madrid’s Champions League match against Legia Warsaw, Zidane was unhappy with the intervention from his homeland’s head of state.
“I feel the Hollande quotes were unfortunate,” he said. “They bother us.
“It’s difficult to say why [there is] so much criticism when they have already said that Benzema is available for the national team.”
Benzema got back among the goals as Madrid thrashed Real Betis 6-1 on Saturday, having struggled for form and fitness this term.
“Benzema needs continuity to feel even better,” Zidane added. “He needs to keep playing if he doesn’t feel pain.”
Madrid’s France defender Raphael Varane spoke alongside Zidane and would welcome the opportunity to discuss the president’s comments.
“I will talk to Hollande if I meet him,” he said. “I’m not going to answer here today.”