Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane says he is upset with comments by France president Francois Hollande which say the France centre-forward Karim Benzema is not a good “example of morality.”
Madrid centre-forward Benzema is embroiled in an investigation into alleged extortion of France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, and was also previously involved in a probe into underage prostitution, a case in which he was acquitted, in 2014.
In a new book entitled, Un president ne devrait pas dire ca… [“A President shouldn’t say that…”], Hollande talks about French footballers being transformed overnight from “badly brought-up kids to rich stars” who need “gym classes for the brain,” saying that Benzema in particular was not “an example of morality.”
The former France national captain, who won the 1998 World Cup with his country, agreed that the comments were “unfortunate.”
“When you talk about a player, or players in general, it annoys me,” Zidane said. “It’s normal. In your work they can criticise you, but they cannot say such strange things. It is normal that it annoys the player. You must look to see exactly what [Hollande] said. But it annoys you, for sure.”
Benzema was recently cleared by the France FA to return to play for the national team, but has not yet been recalled to a squad by coach Didier Deschamps. Zidane said it was strange that politicians continued to speak about the matter, and that he did not usually agree with the opinions voiced.
“Everyone can have their opinion, even more politicians,” he said. “About Karim, the decision has been taken that he can be called up again, then you hear everything that is still being said. But what can I say. I do not share many of the things being said by some people. But I cannot change it.”
Asked if he would like to sit down and talk face to face with Hollande about the issue, Zidane joked that it would be hard to find time in their respective busy schedules.
“It is difficult to,” he said. “He has a lot of work, me too. I have a game tomorrow, Karim too.”