Outcast France striker Karim Benzema has taken aim at Olivier Giroud after being likened to his compatriot, comparing himself to Formula 1 while his countryman is at a “karting” standard.
Benzema, 32, hasn’t appeared for the national team since October 2015. It was in November of that year he was involved in a scandal that saw former France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena blackmailed, after which he said national team coach Didier Deschamps had “bowed to pressure from a racist part of France” (Benzema has Algerian parents).
The Real Madrid star took to Instagram for a Q&A and appeared offended when compared with Giroud before padding his remarks with some compliments:
“You don’t confuse Formula 1 with karting, and I am being nice. Next…I know that I am Formula 1.
“He has his career, he does what he wants, scores the goals he wants. He is in his lane, I am in my lane, I don’t think about him. Aside from that, his style of play suits the French national team well. It works because he is there, that is the only reason. He is good because there are players like Mbappé or Griezmann who are fast and who play in the channels and pivot around the centre-forward. Him, up top, he weighs on defences, which allows the two others to move a lot and show a lot. He blocks and it works. It won’t be spectacular, he won’t do something amazing, but he has his thing… Aside from that, does everyone like how he plays? I don’t know. But it works well for the French national team.”
Giroud, 33, has been a favourite of Deschamps’ in the France squad and started in all but one of their seven games en route to being crowned 2018 World Cup champions. He failed to score during that run and provided a single assist, during the 4-3 win over Argentina in the round of 16.
Benzema has soared at club level, meanwhile, and won four UEFA Champions League titles in the past six seasons. French football writer Jeremy Smith called him a better overall forward than his compatriot but specified other areas in which Giroud is more welcome as a squad member:
It would appear there is some resentment toward the former Arsenal and Montpellier forward, who has played a leading role in the most successful France team in modern times.
Benzema scored 27 goals in 81 appearances for Les Bleus before Deschamps—who was appointed coach in 2012—first omitted him from the national team selection.
Giroud—who has 39 goals from 97 caps—scored four goals in France’s last six games and was kept in the lineup despite barely featuring for Chelsea after Frank Lampard took over.