‘They were the club that gave birth to Karim Benzema’: Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud rejected a move to Lyon in January due to their association with the disgraced France striker after his alleged involvement in a sex-tape row with Mathieu Valbuena
- Karim Benzema is alleged to have been involved in blackmailing former France midfielder Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape
- As a result, Benzema has been exiled from the France set-up since 2015
- Olivier Giroud had the chance to leave Chelsea for Lyon back in January
- But he snubbed the opportunity as Benzema came from Lyon’s academy
Olivier Giroud has revealed he refused the opportunity to join Lyon in January because they ‘were the club that gave birth to Karim Benzema’.
The 33-year-old Chelsea striker was considering his options at the start of the year amid fears that at a lack of first-team action could ruin his hopes of being named in France’s Euro 2020 squad.
But the chance to return to his homeland was turned down because of Lyon’s connections to Benzema, a controversial figure in France due to his alleged involvement in a 2015 sex-tape scandal and the supposed blackmailing of his then France team-mate, Mathieu Valbuena.
Olivier Giroud turned down a Lyon move because of their association with Karim Benzema
Benzema (right) is alleged to have had a role in a blackmail attempt against France team-mate Matthieu Valbuena (left) back in 2015
Benzema’s career began at Lyon before he left for Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2009
‘Unfortunately it’s the cruel truth,’ Giroud told Le Progres in France. ‘I have to come to terms with that.
‘Afterwards in football I could have taken it on without any problem. But I did not want to run the slightest risk for my family or to train inconvenience outside of football compared to that, when I saw how some were reacting.’
Benzema, who started his career at Lyon before joining Real Madrid in 2009, was allegedly involved in the plot to get Valbuena to pay the blackmailers who were threatening him with the release of the tape.
Speaking about it in 2015, Valbuena said to Le Monde: ‘He (Benzema) wasn’t aggressive, and he didn’t speak to me firmly, directly about money, but when you insist that I meet someone … hmmm. Personally, I’ve never known of anyone willing to destroy a video for free just because they love me! You can’t take people for idiots.
‘Afterwards, he said several times that I was dealing with “big bandits” and he added: ‘After all, the video is hot. If it was me, with my family and all … you’d have to be strong.’
‘He would say: ‘I can introduce you to my friend …’ It kept coming back to that. Then when he was about to leave Karim said: ‘What shall I do? Shall I give him your number? Should I give you his number?’
‘He was inciting me. He was saying, indirectly: ‘You will have to pay.’
The Real Madrid striker allegedly encouraged Valbuena to pay money to blackmailers who had threatened to reveal an intimate video involving the Olympiacos star
Benzema’s absence from the France side in the wake of the row has paved the way for Giroud
Reports in France in July said Benzema could face trial for his alleged involvement.
French outlet RMC Sport said the French judiciary are looking to bring a trial against Benzema for ‘aiding and abetting a blackmail attempt’.
Sylvain Cormier, Benzema’s lawyer, maintained in 2015 that his client played no role in the alleged extortion case.
‘He played no part, I repeat no part, in any blackmail or attempted blackmail,’ he told reporters at the time.
The scandal has curtailed Madrid striker Benzema’s involvement with the French national team, who are the current World Cup holders. His last appearance was in 2015.
In March this year, Benzema was asked on social media how he compares to Giroud and was dismissive of his fellow striker’s ability.
Benzema recently laughed at comparisons between himself and the 33-year-old Giroud
Giroud finished last season strongly at Chelsea with nine goals in 18 appearances
‘You can’t confuse an F1 car with a go-kart and I’m being kind,’ Benzema said. ‘I know I’m a Formula 1 car.
‘It works because he’s there, that’s it. It’s not going to be spectacular. (Antoine) Griezmann and (Kylian) Mbappe get seen more while he rolls his sleeves up and does the dirty work. But does everyone like his game? I don’t know.’
Giroud, meanwhile, enjoyed a resurgence in form for Chelsea in the second half of last season and forced his way back into the first team under Frank Lampard.
He scored nine goals in 18 games from February until the end of the season.