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Ballon D’Or winner Benzema ends France career after Qatar blow

Ballon D’Or winner Karim Benzema announced he was ending his international career on Monday, the day after France lost the World Cup final to Argentina.

Benzema, who scored 37 goals in 97 appearances for France, had to withdraw from the World Cup squad before their first match in Qatar due to a left thigh injury he suffered in training.

In his surprise announcement, the 35-year-old Real Madrid forward said on Twitter: “I made the effort and the mistakes it took to be where I am today and I’m proud of it! I wrote my story and ours ends.”

Benzema, who won the Ballon d’Or award for the world’s best player in October, had been desperate to feature in this year’s World Cup having not been selected when France became world champions in Russia four years ago.

He was frozen out of the France team for five and a half years because of his involvement in a blackmail scandal over a sextape involving his former teammate Mathieu Valbuena.

In a trial over the affair last year he was handed a one-year suspended prison sentence and fined 75,000 euros ($79,500).

For the Qatar World Cup, coach Didier Deschamps opted not to call up a replacement for a squad that included 23-year-old Kylian Mbappe.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe won the World Cup Golden Boot award with eight goals, including a hat-trick in Sunday’s penalty shootout defeat by Argentina after the teams had drawn 3-3 draw at the end of extra time.

During the tournament Benzema alternated between messages of encouragement for France on social media and other more enigmatic ones, writing on Instagram before the final: “I’m not interested”. 

That message came after he rejected an invitation from French President Emmanuel Macron to attend the World Cup final.

Benzema, who scored on his senior debut in March 2007 against Austria, never tasted real glory with France, with his only title the 2021 Nations League. 

He had numerous run-ins with Deschamps over the years with the player, who is of Algerian descent, at one stage hinting the France coach was being “racist” in keeping him out.

He made a surprise return to the France team just before Euro 2021, scoring ten goals in a year including four in the European Championship but could not prevent France crashing out to Switzerland in the last 16.

Benzema has won the Champions League five times with Real Madrid and helped them to four Spanish titles.

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