Karim Benzema on freeze-out from France squad: 'I have to know'

Karim Benzema has demanded Didier Deschamps give him an explanation for his continued absence from the France squad, telling RMC: "I have to know."

Benzema has not featured for his country since October 2015 after initially being suspended by the French Football Federation (FFF) due to his alleged involvement in the alleged extortion of France teammate Mathieu Valbuena.

Legal restrictions preventing the Real Madrid forward and Valbuena meeting were eased ahead of UEFA EURO 2016, leading to speculation Benzema would return to Les Bleus.

Instead, he watched from home as his compatriots finished runners-up as hosts of the European competition and has not been on the pitch since for France with Deschamps continuing to ignore the former Lyon forward's claims to a place.

Benzema said: "What I would like is to at least have a discussion with the coach, that he tells me what he thinks. I have to know. The last time I spoke to the coach on the phone, it was well before the Euro. He told me, 'Karim, I'm going to tell you something you're not going to like. I'm not going to pick you.' At the time, I was very disappointed, I didn't need explanations.

"We haven't had contact since. But today, having taken a step back, I would like him to explain to me why he doesn't pick me and why it continues. I ask myself that question every day."

Benzema, who has scored 27 goals in 81 international appearances, admitted being an outcast from international duty has been tough, especially when playing for a team of the calibre of Real Madrid.

"There are only internationals [at Real Madrid]. It's hard too because I love football, big matches, and you know that the national team is a very high level. Each time I've been able to come and play with France, I was proud. So when I'm not on the list, I'm disappointed.

"Given what I've done at Madrid for eight years now, I think I've proven that I still had a lot of years ahead of me in the France team. It's been a year-and-a-half that I'm not in it any more. It's hard for me. Some people say I don't love the French national team. If that were the case, I would have said so directly to the coach, because I'm a big boy.

"But today I find it unfair because I don't have an explanation, let them explain to me why they don't pick me. I'm going to keep in my head that if they don't pick me for the moment, it's for football, it's that there are players that are better than me. If we talk about things outside of sport, the story with Mathieu, I'm not guilty. I've paid, it's been a year-and-a-half."

Deschamps preferred Kevin Gameiro, Olivier Giroud, the new darling of France, Antoine Griezmann, and Monaco's teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe as his forwards for Saturday's 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Luxembourg and next week's friendly with Spain.

Benzema, 29, who has scored five goals in seven UEFA Champions League matches this season, has not given up hope of playing well enough to convince Deschamps to change his mind.

"Of course, for the moment, I haven't ended my career. I'm young. There are still a lot of goals [to achieve]. I'm not going to give up. If people think I'm going to give up the French national team, they're mistaken. I'm still here and I'm still hungry for trophies."

A bone of contention could be Benzema's claim in an interview that Deschamps had "bowed to the pressure of a racist part of France" by omitting him from the Euro hosts' squad.

"I can't regret those words because it's true. That's clear," the former Lyon striker told RMC. "Now, if the coach understood wrongly or read it wrongly, but I don't think so because he speaks Spanish...I have never thought for a second that Didier Deschamps or Noel Le Graet [the FFF president] were racists. No way.

"But if they regret my words, I would like us to call each other and explain ourselves. Like that, there will be nothing...It can hurt. But I have never said he was a racist."