Madrid, Dec 2 (IANS) Real Madrid head coach Rafael Benitez has responded to the statements of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who said on Tuesday that if an athlete is not “exemplary” then he has “no place within the France team” in reference to forward Karim Benzema, whom the Spanish football giants’ tactician believes is “crucial” for them.

“I think he is crucial for us. On a personal level, he is a great guy and he has all of our support,” Efe quoted Benitez as saying on Tuesday. “On a footballing level, he is essential because he is a key man up front and provides quality so that those around him can play even better,” he added. Benzema, who is French, found himself in hot water after he was charged with involvement in a plot to blackmail his national side teammate, Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape featuring the Lyon midfielder.