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Zidane wants a fit and focused Benzema

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Real Madrid's coach Zinedine Zidane reacts during the La Liga soccer match between Real Betis and Real Madrid, at the Benito Villamarin stadium, in Seville, Spain on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016. PHOTO/AFP

Real Madrid’s coach Zinedine Zidane reacts during the La Liga soccer match between Real Betis and Real Madrid, at the Benito Villamarin stadium, in Seville, Spain on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016. PHOTO/AFP

MADRID, March 19 – Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wants star striker Karim Benzema to concentrate on regaining his form and fitness rather than a series of off-field scandals affecting the French international in his homeland.

Benzema wasn’t included in Didier Deschamps’ latest French squad on Thursday due to an ongoing investigation into his role in a sex-tape blackmail plot involving international teammate Mathieu Valbuena.

The 28-year-old has also given evidence to French authorities in a separate money laundering investigation.

“I am not going to say whether the treatment of Benzema is fair or unfair,” Zidane said on Saturday ahead of Sevilla’s visit to the Santiago Bernabeu.

“The only thing I want of the player is that he concentrates solely on football and the game tomorrow.

“We have spoken together and we believe the best thing is to think about football.”

The French Football Federation faces sporting pressure to bring Benzema back into the national side in time for the European Championship in June, which France will host.

However, leading French figures, including Prime Minister Manuel Valls, have called into question whether Benzema should be given the honour of representing his country given his off-field behaviour.

“For young people, a great sportsman must be exemplary,” said Valls.

“12 seasons that I’m professional: 541 matches played 0 red card 11 yellow cards!!! And some talk about me being exemplary???” Benzema tweeted in reply to Valls’s comments this week.

Benzema has been sidelined for the past three weeks due to a thigh problem, but is expected to return to the starting line-up against Sevilla on Sunday.

“I see him concentrated on what he needs to do on the field,” added Zidane.

“The most important thing right now is that physically he is good. He is not feeling the effects of his injuries.

“Physically, after a break of 23 days it is difficult, but he has trained well since Tuesday and little by little is recovering his fitness.

“He isn’t going away during the international break so we can continue to work together to improve physically.”

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