Real Madrid's Karim Benzema: France call up after exile a 'shock'

Karim Benzema has said that his France recall was a "shock" despite face-to-face talks with coach Didier Deschamps aimed at resolving their differences after a six-year exile from the national team.

The forward was named in the France squad last week for this summer's European Championship, after a stellar campaign in which he scored 23 goals for Real Madrid in La Liga.

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"It was a special day," Benzema told L'Equipe. "I received a lot of messages, there were rumours. I was waiting like everyone else, in front of the TV. I was really happy... It happened really fast, it was a feeling of joy and pride. I remembered all the moments when I never gave up. It was a little shock, it's been a long time!"

Benzema had been frozen out of the national team set up since 2015 after his alleged involvement in the blackmail of former teammate Mathieu Valbuena, which he has denied, and will stand trial for later this year.

"Deschamps didn't tell me," Benzema added. "We talked a lot, it was a long conversation, but he never said to me: 'You'll be at the Euros.' The only thing he said was that we'd taken a big step together and that we'd see.

"We were face-to-face. We hadn't seen each other since 2015. It was good to talk, I've always gotten on well with him, after three minutes everything was back to normal."

Benzema also backed Zinedine Zidane to stay on as Madrid coach, and defended the team's record after a trophyless 2020-21 season.

Zidane -- who has a close relationship with Benzema -- has said he'll be meeting with Madrid bosses "in the next few days" to discuss his future at the Bernabeu.

"He's coach of Real Madrid right now, isn't he? I don't see him leaving," Benzema said.

"He won't go, you'll see. If he goes, he goes, but right now I don't see Madrid without Zidane.

"He's always been honest with me. He's very open. That's why I respect him so much, he's very direct with me. He's my coach but he's also like an older brother."

Madrid finished second in La Liga behind local rivals Atletico Madrid, but took the title race to the final day of the season -- having been 10 points adrift in January -- after a run of 18 league games without defeat.

"We've had 60 injuries," Benzema added. "At no time could Madrid play with our full team. A lot of them had COVID-19, including Zizou. It was a complicated season. But despite that we got to the Champions League semifinals and we fought until the end in La Liga."