Benzema stands trial in sex tape case

France and Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema went on trial in absentia on Wednesday, charged with complicity in the attempted blackmail of former international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape.

Prosecutors allege that Benzema, who has denied wrongdoing, encouraged Valbuena to pay a suspected group of blackmailers in order to keep the sexually explicit tape out of the public eye.

They say Valbuena received a first call threatening to expose the tape in June, 2015 while at the France squad’s training centre in Clairefontaine.

Valbuena told the court in Versailles on Wednesday that it was clear the caller wanted money, and that the blackmail attempt left him fearing for his career and place in the national squad.

Benzema was not in the court for the start of the trial because of professional obligations, said his lawyer, who has described the case against him as “absurd”.

The 33-year-old, who has played 92 times for his country and was recalled to the France squad for Euro 2020, scored in Real Madrid’s 5-0 Champions League win over Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine on Tuesday.

Mathieu Valbuena leaves the courtroom
Mathieu Valbuena leaves the courtroom on Wednesday

Benzema and Valbuena both lost their places in the national team in the wake of the scandal, dubbed the “sex tape affair”.

According to prosecutors, Valbuena’s anonymous first caller said he wanted to “come to an arrangement” with Valbuena and told him to name an intermediary.

The blackmailers initially turned to former French international Djibril Cisse to persuade Valbuena to pay the hush money. Instead, Cisse warned him of the extortion plot, Valbuena said.

An undercover police officer posed on Valbuena’s behalf as a middleman and recorded phone conversations between June and October 2015 that helped identify the alleged blackmailers, according to prosecutors.

Benzema was recruited by the alleged blackmailers to encourage Valbuena to pay as his team-mate stalled, they allege.

Among Benzema’s co-accused are his childhood friend Karim Zenati, who allegedly acted as an intermediary, and Mustapha Zouaoui, one of the suspected architects of the scam.

Zouaoui told reporters he had received the sex tape and shared it with Benzema and other members of the French team, but said there had never been an attempt to extort money from Valbuena.

“We kept the tape for ourselves,” Zouaoui said before the trial opened.

Benzema, who is accused of complicity to attempted blackmail, faces up to five years in jail and a €75,000 (£63,400) fine if convicted.

His four co-accused face charges of attempted blackmail.

Camavinga is Real Madrid’s new hope

It was the season before last, when Eduardo Camavinga was playing for Rennes and still just 17, that an opposition player suggested a shirt swap ‘before he signed for Real Madrid’.

Perhaps nobody should be too surprised that it turned out to be prophetic. On Sunday, fitness permitting, Camavinga will play for Real Madrid against Barcelona, the teenager making his first appearance in El Clasico, club football’s biggest fixture.

This can feel like a tawdry old business at times but the global game still has a way with stories and few are more inspiring than that of Camavinga. The boy born to Congolese parents in a refugee camp in Angola is already France’s youngest player in a century.

This is a rare talent, maybe even the complete midfielder. Sixteen years old when he was named man of the match as Rennes defeated Paris Saint-Germain, progress since has been serene. Real Madrid paid £34.4m for him and few doubt it is a bargain.

Millions will be touched by Camavinga’s tale before his journey is through but his success is felt particularly keenly at AGL-Drapeau Fougeres, the club that nurtured him from the age of 11. Last year, he returned to open the pitch they have already named after him.

Eduardo Camavinga returns to AGL-Drapeau Fougeres to be honoured [Source: Eduardo Camavinga, Instagram]
Returning to AGL-Drapeau Fougeres [Source: Eduardo Camavinga, Instagram]

Christophe Communier is a teacher by trade but he doubles up as club secretary and was coach of the U13 team in Fougeres when Camavinga joined them at the age of 11. “He was already at a higher level than the others,” Communier tells Sky Sports.

“He was a very good player, of course he was, and that is why he played with the older players. But we could never have imagined at this time that he would go on to become one of the best players in the world with Real Madrid and with France.”

Instead, he remembers a happy boy who loved life at the club.

“He enjoyed everything that he did here. He played football with a smile. He played tennis with his friends. He was always very polite and he still is. I met him again last year and even though he is now a professional player, he came up to me and he was easy to talk to.

“When his schedule permits, he will come here to see friends and to meet the children.”

Eduardo Camavinga continues to inspire youngsters at his childhood club AGL-Drapeau Fougeres
Eduardo Camavinga continues to inspire youngsters at his childhood club

As Communier talks to Sky Sports, he is overseeing a training session at the club, just 45 minutes from Rennes up the A84. As ever, he is watching over the next group of youngsters who are hoping that they can replicate the journey made by Camavinga.

It is a club with a history of producing talent. Lorient midfielder Fabien Lemoine also spent his formative years at AGL-Drapeau Fougeres. Time, however, like children, can be cruel. “He is 34 now and the children here do not really know him,” says Communier.

“They all know Eduardo Camavinga, especially because he comes back here. To the children, Eduardo is a star. For example, I have got young people in front of me now. A lot of them have a Stade Rennais jersey with the name of Camavinga on the back.

“For the children, it was actually more exciting when Eduardo was at Rennes because it is so close and we feel that link. Real Madrid is so far away. But most of the people here are watching the matches on television, of course. It is the biggest club in the world.”

Camavinga had little memory of his difficult start in life when he arrived at the club. But fresh in the memory was the house fire that he and his family had suffered. “He came to us just after that,” Communier explains. The Camavinga family lost almost everything.

The father turned to the son and told him that he represented their only hope now. Such pressure might have overwhelmed a young boy but there is no indication that it did anything other than inspire. Asked about it since, Camavinga has seemed untroubled.

His maturity has always been remarkable.

“I think it made more of a difference off the pitch than on it,” suggests Communier. “He was always smiling. It was his way. Maybe that was because of his beginning in life. Maybe his parents told him to be happy because of all that they had been through before.”

It is this, his character, that has impressed Carlo Ancelotti.

“Yes, it has surprised me a bit, that is the truth,” said the Real Madrid coach. “We all know the quality he has, physical and technical. Then on the pitch he has shown his personality. We did not know about that. What happens in games does not worry him, he is confident.”

No wonder football does not faze him. Nicknamed Iceman by his team-mates, precocious hardly does Camavinga justice. He ranked among the top 10 tacklers in Ligue 1 last season but he is a difficult player to pin down because he is a passer too, a dribbler even.

The move to Real Madrid was a bold one. He has joined a team in transition but time is a luxury afforded nobody in the Spanish capital. Camavinga’s response to such pressure? A goal within six minutes of his debut against Celta Vigo at the Bernabeu.

Over in Fougeres, the overriding emotions is pride, although perhaps they could be forgiven some disappointment that funding for their role in Camavinga’s development is unlikely to be forthcoming. Communier insists that reports of a windfall are incorrect.

“Most of the newspapers said that we would have hundreds of thousands of euros because of his move to Real Madrid. If he had stayed until he was a bit older before signing the contract with Rennes that would have been the case but he was too young.

“Maybe Stade Rennais will give us money but they do not have to.”

Eduardo Camavinga continues to inspire youngsters at his childhood club AGL-Drapeau Fougeres
A youngster at AGL-Drapeau Fougeres dreams of being the next Eduardo Camavinga

Still, the impact of Camavinga’s success is being felt in other ways. He continues to inspire the young boys and girls on the pitch that now bears his name. Ahead of El Clasico, there is an awareness that just to be part of this young man’s extraordinary story is a privilege.

“When you ask the children here who are six or seven, what they want to be when they are older, they all say the same thing.

“They all want to be Eduardo Camavinga.”

Perez hints at Mbappe deal in January

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has hinted the Spanish club may reach a deal to sign Kylian Mbappe on January 1.

Mbappe’s contract with Paris Saint-Germain expires at the end of the season – and Madrid tried to sign him before the current campaign began, only to have their offers turned down.

The forward’s contract situation means he can negotiate with other teams from January 1, 2022.

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Spanish football journalist Alvaro Montero discusses the chances of Real Madrid putting together a deal to sign Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund

Perez told Spanish paper El Debate: “In January we will have news on Mbappe.

“Hopefully, everything can be sorted on January 1.”

However, Marca report that Perez later backtracked slightly, saying: “My words were misinterpreted.

Florentino Perez
Florentino Perez suggested Real could try and reach an agreement with Mbappe at the start of next year

“What I said is that we have to wait until next year to hear from him, always with respect to PSG with whom we have good relations.”

Perez’s initial comments prompted an angry reaction from PSG sporting director Leonardo.

“It’s been going on for two years,” the Brazilian told French sports daily L’Equipe. “I just remind you that the transfer window is closed, that a season is underway.

“There are matches and Real Madrid cannot continue to behave in this way. “Let it stop! Kylian is a player of Paris St Germain and the club wants this relationship to last.”

Mbappe himself has not totally ruled out staying at PSG beyond this season.

Asked if he was going to leave next summer, Mbappe told L’Equipe: “I’ve been in football long enough now to know that yesterday’s truth is not necessarily today’s, nor tomorrow’s.

“If I was told that [Lionel] Messi was going to play at PSG, I wouldn’t have believed it, so you never know what’s going to happen.”

Mbappe: I told PSG in July I wanted to leave

Kylian Mbappe has criticised Paris Saint-Germain for their handling of his failed transfer to Real Madrid and insisted he informed the French club of his desire to leave in July.

Real were prepared to spend £197m to sign the France World Cup winner in the summer but PSG refused to agree a sale, despite the forward’s contract running out at the end of the season.

Mbappe, 22, who joined PSG in 2017 in a transfer worth £165m, is able to sign a pre-contract agreement with another club in January.

Speaking to French radio station RMC Sport, Mbappe said: “I asked to leave. Because at the moment that I did not want to extend my contract I wanted the club to have a transfer fee to get a replacement of quality.

“It (PSG) is a club that has brought me a lot. I have always been happy, the four years I have spent here, and I still am.

“I wanted everyone to come out of this stronger, that we leave hand in hand, to make a good deal and I respected that.

“I said, ‘If you don’t want me to go I will stay’.”

Mbappe, who has won three Ligue 1 titles and three French Cups, is PSG’s top league goalscorer this season with four goals for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.

“People have said that I refused six or seven offers of extension, that I do not want to talk to [sporting director] Leonardo, this is absolutely not true,” he added.

“They told me ‘Kylian now you talk with the president.’

“Personally, I did not appreciate the fact that they said I came [with the news he wanted to leave] the last week of August. I said at the end of July that I wanted to go.”

PSG sporting director Leonardo said earlier this month he is confident Mbappe will sign a new contract at the Parc des Princes.

Euro: Messi’s PSG beaten by Rennes | Espanyol stun Real

Paris Saint-Germain suffered their first defeat of the season when they were beaten 2-0 at Rennes on Sunday.

Rennes won thanks to goals by Gaetan Laborde and Flavian Tait either side of the interval to end PSG’s eight-game winning run in the league and inflict their first away defeat in the competition for eight months.

PSG, beaten in the pre-season Trophy of Champions by Lille, stayed top of the standings with 24 points, six ahead of second-placed RC Lens who beat Stade de Reims 2-0 on Friday.

“We played 25-30 minutes of very good quality. We were in control of the game. We conceded the goal in a strong moment for them. When we started the second half, we were down 2-0 right away, it was a different game after that,” PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino said.

“I’m a little bit angry. Without underestimating what Rennes did, we are frustrated and disappointed that we did not convert our chances and to concede these goals. These situations leave us bitter and disappointed.”

Messi cuts a dejected figure on Sunday
Messi cuts a dejected figure on Sunday

Five days after an impressive win over Manchester City in the Champions League, PSG got off to a lively start but lacked sharpness as Neymar skied a close-range attempt over the bar in the 22nd minute.

Lionel Messi’s 25-yard free-kick crashed against the crossbar and although he combined well with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, the visitors struggled to break the deadlock.

Rennes, who had less than 72 hours to recuperate after beating Vitesse Arnhem in the Europa League on Thursday, went ahead on the stroke of halftime in clinical fashion.

Laborde netted his sixth goal of the season by volleying home from Kamaldeen Sulemana’s cross.

Having failed to manage a single shot on target in the first half, PSG were caught cold straight after the interval as Tait fired home from Laborde’s cross.

The hugely disappointing Neymar was substituted by Mauro Icardi in the 76th minute but the Argentine failed to inspire PSG who also failed to muster a shot on target in the second half. Rennes moved up to seventh on 12 points.

Meanwhile, Lille handed Marseille their second consecutive Ligue 1 defeat when Jonathan David’s double gave them a 2-0 home win on Sunday as the visitors finished with 10 men.

David struck after 28 minutes and again deep into stoppage time to lift the French champions to eighth in the standings on 14 points from nine games as they continue to recover from a bad start to the season.

The result left Marseille, who suffered their first loss in the league last weekend against RC Lens, in fifth place also on 14 points, although the Provence side have a game in hand.

La Liga: Real stunned by Espanyol as woes continue

Raul de Tomas celebrates his finish for Espanyol
Raul de Tomas celebrates his finish for Espanyol

Real Madrid’s stuttering form continued on Sunday when they were stunned 2-1 away at Espanyol in LaLiga.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side are now without a win in three games in all competitions but remain top of the table on 17 points, ahead of city rivals Atletico Madrid on goal difference.

A goal in either half from Raul De Tomas and Aleix Vidal was enough for Espanyol to secure the three points against Real. The Catalans moved up to 12th with nine points.

Karim Benzema’s curled effort halved the deficit 19 minutes from time but Real were unable to find an equaliser, with Eden Hazard’s late effort ruled out for offside.

“We weren’t comfy. We conceded early and that makes the game tougher for you,” Real defender Nacho said.

“They got in behind us a lot, and we need to work on our defensive play and that will come with games.

“We’ve got a number of players missing but we still have a good squad and we should be doing better than in our last three games. We need to improve at the back and respond.”

Bundesliga: Frankfurt win at Bayern

Robert Lewandowski failed to inspire Bayern Munich
Robert Lewandowski failed to inspire Bayern Munich

Frankfurt’s Filip Kostic drilled home an 83rd-minute goal to stun Bayern Munich and snatch a 2-1 Bundesliga win on Sunday, earning a first league victory at Bayern in 21 years and ending the hosts’ nine-game winning run in all competitions.

Kostic picked up the ball on the edge of the box, charged forward and beat keeper Manuel Neuer with a powerful low drive in the 83rd minute to seal Eintracht’s first win of the season.

The Bavarians remain top of the table with 16 points from seven games despite their first defeat, one point ahead of Borussia Dortmund and Freiburg in second and third respectively.

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Highlights of the Bundesliga match between Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt.

The home side took the lead when Leon Goretzka benefited from a Martin Hinteregger mistake to score in the 29th minute.

The Austrian defender quickly made amends by powering a header into the net for the equaliser three minutes later.

Both teams each had a chance to take the lead before the break with Eintracht’s Almamy Toure forcing a superb save from Neuer in the 43rd minute and Bayern’s Serge Gnabry hitting the post from close range a minute later.

Frankfurt revel in their fine away victory
Frankfurt revel in their fine away victory

Eintracht ‘keeper Kevin Trapp was kept busy in the second half, repeatedly denying Gnabry, Leroy Sane and Robert Lewandowski as the hosts pushed forward in search of the winner.

Yet it was Eintracht who scored what proved to be the winner against the run of play through Kostic before Trapp made another key save in stoppage time to palm a Goretzka shot wide.

Serie A: Napoli recover to maintain perfect start

Napoli's Victor Osimhen celebrates his side's 2-1 win
Napoli’s Victor Osimhen celebrates his side’s 2-1 win

Napoli came from behind to earn a 2-1 victory at Fiorentina in Serie A on Sunday, ensuring they remain the only side in Europe’s top five leagues with a 100 per cent record this season.

The league leaders started sluggishly and were punished in the 28th minute as Lucas Martinez Quarta took advantage of some slack marking to fire Fiorentina into a deserved lead.

The opener acted as a wake-up call for Napoli with Hirving Lozano firing them level 10 minutes later, following up after goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski had brilliantly saved Lorenzo Insigne’s penalty.

Victor Osimhen then almost edged Napoli in front before halftime with a spectacular overhead kick. However, the visitors did not have to wait much longer to complete the turnaround, with Amir Rrahmani giving them a 2-1 lead in the 50th minute.

Napoli had further chances to make the win more comfortable, but saw the game out to secure a seventh straight success and stay top, four points clear of second-placed Inter Milan.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan strikes to extend Roma's lead
Henrikh Mkhitaryan strikes to extend Roma’s lead

Fiorentina remain fifth after their third defeat of the season.

Elsewhere, Lorenzo Pellegrini celebrated signing a new contract and his recall to the Italian national team squad by setting Roma on their way to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Empoli.

The 25-year-old midfielder penned a new deal to stay in the Italian capital until 2026 before the match and arrowed Roma in front three minutes before the break, days after being named in the Azzurri squad for this week’s Nations League finals.

Jose Mourinho watches on during the Empoli game
Jose Mourinho watches on during the Empoli game

Henrikh Mkhitaryan had Roma two goals in front three minutes later, reacting first after Tammy Abraham’s powerful strike had come back off the crossbar, with the hosts able to take their foot off the gas after that and see out the victory with ease.

The result kept Jose Mourinho’s side fourth in the standings, six points behind leaders Napoli, while Empoli stayed 10th.

Meanwhile, AC Milan continued their impressive start to the Serie A season, surviving a late Atalanta comeback to earn a 3-2 victory in Bergamo.

Fernando Forestieri’s late equaliser earned Udinese a point in a pulsating 3-3 draw at Sampdoria, while Hellas Verona thrashed Spezia 4-0 in Veneto.