Unprofessional Foul


December 23, 2015

L’Affaire Valbuena

No longer besties.

No longer besties.

Although the story broke a while ago, everyone is still talking about “L’Affaire Valbuena.” Need to catch up? Confused from the start? Simply here for the titillation? Let’s run through things so we’re all on the same page.

Back in June 2015 as Les Bleus were preparing for friendlies against Belgium and Albania, rumors began to surface that Mathieu Valbuena had been receiving phone calls from individuals looking to extort him for €100,000. The blackmailers claimed to be in possession of a sex tape featuring the Olympique Lyon star, although it is unclear if he is in the tape with his partner, Fanny Lafon, or with another woman. The diminutive midfielder refused to pay and contacted the French police.

In the ensuing months, the police conducted an investigation into three separate individuals suspected of being involved in the blackmail plot, recording six conversations between the suspects. Things began to pick up in October as the French national team reconvened at Clairefontaine to train ahead of friendlies against Armenia and Denmark. On October 5th as the rumors continued to swirl, Benzema approached Valbuena to talk to him regarding the situation.

As if things weren’t weird enough, on October 8th, Djibril Cisse is taken into custody and questioned by French police. Released the same day, Cisse is thought to be connected to the blackmailers via “a circle of French footballers” although he is not described as a suspect. This is confirmed by Valbuena on his official Facebook page, in the following release:

“I am sincerely sorry that my friend Djibril Cisse was detained recently. As far as I am concerned, I have no problems with Djibril, who was acting as a friend and attempting to help me. I do not have any other statements to make while the police are conducting their investigation. I would simply like to thank the police for their effective handling of the incident.”

This characterization of Cisse as merely helping out a friend is initially also applied to Benzema when it is learned that one of the plotters, Karim Zenati, is a childhood friend of the Real Madrid striker. When Zenati is taken into police custody and detained overnight on November 4th, Benzema continued to insist that he was merely facilitating contact with Valbuena in order to spare his national team partner some embarrassment. Matters were made worse when Benzema himself is charged with extortion, and his story is questioned when a transcript of the conversation between the two Karims was leaked to the press.

On November 13th, Benzema continued his bizarre tale, releasing the following statement:

“I was supposed to make the introduction between Mathieu and Karim Zenati…I am embarrassed for Karim Zenati, because when he was released from his prison, and even when he was on the inside, I took care of him. We are really very close.”

This sounds for all the world like a veiled “snitches get stitches” threat. Reversing his opinion of Benzema from a few weeks prior when he stated that there was no animosity, Valbuena released a statement on November 27h that he is “very, very, very disappointed” in his France teammate. Continuing his tour of delusion, Benzema insisted that this had all been a misunderstanding and that he still wished to play in Euro 2016 with Valbuena. This appears unlikely, as the French Football Federation suspended Benzema, pending the conclusion of his legal troubles.

For his part, Mathieu Valbuena, currently injured and not due back for Lyon until after the winter break, has the full support of national team manager Didier Deschamps, who, despite the ban, has not ruled out a return for Karim Benzema to the national side. Deschamps, did, however, give the players a good dose of an “in my day…” speech.

So, there we are. As things stand, neither Valbuena nor Benzema will feature for the national side any time soon. However, it remains possible that both will be in the squad when Euro 2016 rolls around. I already have my tickets, so maybe I’ll get to see some on- and off-pitch fireworks.

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The NY Kid