Real Madrid star Karim Benzema hinted that he had no interest in returning to Qatar for the World Cup final between France and Argentina on Sunday before eventually being ruled out of a spot altogether by head coach Didier Deschamps.
Benzema was coming into the World Cup off the back of being awarded the 2022 Ballon d’Or for his outstanding year. But an injury in France’s first training session upon arriving at their base in Qatar resulted in him immediately heading back to Madrid to recover.
The 34-year-old has since recovered from injury, training at Real’s facilities and playing in a behind closed doors 60-minute friendly against Leganes on Thursday.
It had fuelled speculation that Benzema could still play a role in the final back in Qatar. France coach Deschamps opted not to take the opportunity to replace him in the squad and therefore Benzema never officially withdrew and technically still remains eligible.
When pressed on the matter immediately after the semi-final, Deschamps refused to address it but also didn’t firmly rule it out as a possibility.
It was also reported on Friday that Benzema, who would be entitled to a medal as a member of the squad even without playing, had been invited to attend the final by the French Football Federation as a guest in a non-playing capacity.
But now the player appears to have hinted he won’t be going.
“I am not interested,” Benzema posted on Instagram with no other context.
The feeling appears to be mutual, however, with Deschamps insisting in his final pre-match press conference that he is working with 24 players, with the injured Benzema or Lucas Hernandez not in mind.
“Some players have been injured and Karim Benzema is one of them and Lucas Hernandez got injured in the first game. From that point on, I have 24 players in my squad and they are the ones at my disposal, so I don’t think it is fair to those players to ask about players who aren’t here,” he said.
“It is not up to me to decide who comes to watch the game, former players or injured players, I focus on my squad and the players at my disposal. We have lost three Christopher Nkunku, Karim Benzema and Lucas Hernandez and I lost them even though they were in the squad to begin with. So now I am focusing on my 24-man squad and they are the ones I will have at my disposal tomorrow.”
Benzema previously missed out on France’s World Cup triumph in 2018, which fell during six years of being overlooked by Deschamps. Having also missed Euro 2016 on home soil, he was recalled last year shortly before the start of Euro 2020.