Saturday 24 August 2019

Mathieu Valbuena: Blackmailed Lyon midfielder speaks for the first time about sex tape case and Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema, right, with Mathieu Valbuena. (AP)
Karim Benzema, right, with Mathieu Valbuena. (AP)

Tom Sheen

France midfielder Mathieu Valbuena has spoken for the first time about the blackmail attempt by international team-mate Karim Benzema and his associates.

The Real Madrid striker was indicted by French authorities on 5 November after he confessed to acting as a ‘mediator’ between Valbuena and a childhood friend, who had tried to extort Valbuena over the existence of a sex tape - the blackmailer threatened to spread the video if Valbuena did not pay. Benzema has been charged with being complicit in the blackmail attempt but insists he was only offering advice to Valbuena.

Lyon midfielder Valbuena has spoken for the first time since the incident hit the news, in a long interview with French newspaper Le Monde, stating that Benzema 'indirectly' told him he should pay up.

The following has been translated from French and edited for clarity:

Real Madrid's French striker Karim Benzema leaves the court house in Versailles, near Paris
Real Madrid's French striker Karim Benzema leaves the court house in Versailles, near Paris

Le Monde: Karim Benzema was pressing in trying to put you in touch with the blackmailer?

Mathieu Valbuena: In his way of speaking, it was not aggressive, he did not specifically talked about money directly, but when you insist on me to meet someone... pffff. Me, I have never seen someone one that will do destroy a video for free just because he loves me! Must avoid to take people for idiots.

In the discussions, I told Karim: 'You saw [former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse], he had the same thing in 2008.'

And he said: 'So, he paid?' I told him: 'Well yeah, he paid.' [Benzema]: 'And it came out?'  [Valbuena] 'Well, no.'

Then he repeated several times that I was dealing with 'big thugs’. [Benzema]: 'It's still hot video. I know that I, the family and everything, should be strong.  If you do not want [it to come out] after, I can you introduce my friend…'

It all comes back to that. I am more than disappointed. I think it's a lack of respect, simply. You can not have behavior like this with anyone. At the end, Karim told me: 'What do I do? I give your number? I give you his number?'

Le Monde: But you did not?

Valbuena: No. Because Karim knows - even if we never talked about money - I think it's still a bit clever. From the moment I met this person, [I knew] it's not [going to cost] peanuts...

Le Monde: So we can’t say that Karim Benzema has put pressure on you, but you were encouraged to see these people?

Valbuena: Yes, but encourage, it means: 'It will be necessary that you pay.’ [Benzema put pressure on] Indirectly.

Le Monde: What has happened then?

Valbuena: Karim tried to call me. Not with his phone and not on mine but on that of a Lyon staff member. It was the Zenit St Petersburg match [where Lyon played on October 20 in the Champions League]. He said: 'Matt, my name is out, what the hell is this, I can not be in business like that.' 

I replied: 'Karim, listen, there's nothing special, do anything to you, there is no problem.’ But deep down, I tell myself that it's still weird that he wanted me to meet that person. After he told me: 'We'll have to lie, it's hot, it'll take crazy [measures], I have a daughter and everything.’ I said to him: 'Karim, it's not just me [who told police of his involvement]. A good citizen, I just complained. I can’t help if [your name repeatedly emerges in wiretaps].' And on the possible denial, I said: 'I can’t do it now, I'll wait and see.' Then I tried to reassure him, saying: 'If one day I have to, I will, I did Djibril... But for now, I can do nothing.'

At this point, I know that the big difference between Karim and Djibril is that Djibril never asked me to meet someone. While Karim, he did. So I said: 'The denial, I will, but only if I have the elements. Otherwise, I'm like a trumpet after.'

Le Monde: What is your reaction when you heard the conversation between Karim Benzema and his friend Karim Zenati on [TV station] Europe 1 and [newspaper] L’Equipe on 11 November (Benzema had told his friend that Valbuena was not taking them seriously)?

Valbuena: Obviously you're disappointed, more than disappointed. It shows a lack of respect. I respect all the world, but now I feel like [people are] taking me for a fool... Many people want [to see me] destabilised, but I always [rise above] it, as I always have.

Le Monde: In these [recordings], Karim Benzema holds insults (he said 'they'll piss on it’) against you ...

Valbuena: Yes that's it. At some point, I cannot defend the indefensible. Even [to] my worst enemy, I would not do that.

Le Monde: You have been the victim of racketeering and discovered that your [team-mate] was involved in the case. What is the hardest to [process]?

Valbuena: The second point, obviously, because it's a colleague of the French national team. When I went to my first [police interview], I was far from imagining that Karim Benzema [is involved] in this story. Anyway, the investigators did not wait to find out what was said between Karim and myself for him to be indicted. Moreover, the police told me: 'Do not worry, we do not need your testimony.'

Le Monde: You want to [say something on] Karim Benzema?

I can only be very very very disappointed, and found that the relationship with Karim, it's not as sincere as he could perhaps claim.

(© Independent News Service)

Independent News Service

The Left Wing: The 'hell' of World Cup training camp, Ireland's half-back dilemma and All Blacks uncertainty

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport