France coach Didier Deschamps has opened the door for a potential return to the national team for Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, saying the striker could be recalled if it is in the best interests of the squad.
Benzema has not represented Les Bleus since October 2015 and was left out of the squad that reached the final of Euro 2016 after his alleged involvement in a blackmail attempt against international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena, per the Guardian.
However, Deschamps has now confirmed the 28-year-old is not out of the reckoning for good, per beIN Sports (via Goal's Stefan Coerts):
There is no Benzema case for me. That is something the media have created.
It is clear that he was an important player for France and then some things happened. Every time I take a decision, I look at what is best for the team and I will continue to make my decisions based on that principle.
But that does not mean Benzema's situation will still be the same in four or six months. There is a team that is doing well and has a common goal, but nothing is permanent.
If I call up Benzema, it will be with the intention to play him. It is the same with Patrice Evra. I do not call up players like them to put them on the bench. They have a certain status with the national team.
I can only repeat that I take decisions that I think are in the team's best interest.
Benzema made his debut for France in 2007, and his international record stands at 27 goals in 81 appearances.
He remains one of the most effective strikers in Europe, and although he has suffered with injury so far in 2016-17, he has managed four goals in 473 minutes of La Liga action for Real, per WhoScored.com.
That is one fewer than Kevin Gameiro has netted in 704 minutes of league action for Atletico Madrid this season and one more than Arsenal's Olivier Giroud has scored in 109 minutes in the Premier League, with the pair having alternated as Deschamps' preferred No. 9 in recent France internationals.
The main striker's role in the French starting XI has not been locked down by either Gameiro or Giroud, and—based on Deschamps' comments—Benzema could make it his own again if he shows his value.
Antoine Griezmann was France's most prolific goalscoring outlet at Euro 2016 and is undroppable, but the position just ahead of the Atleti talisman is still up for grabs.
Per Real, Benzema returned from his recent injury when he made an appearance from the bench in Los Blancos' 3-0 defeat of Atletico on Saturday:
He could return to manager Zinedine Zidane's starting lineup for their UEFA Champions League group clash at Sporting CP on Tuesday, per Alberto Pinero and Ben Hayward of Goal.
In 2015-16, Benzema netted 24 league goals in 27 appearances—a better league tally than Griezmann, Giroud and Gameiro—goalscoring form that, in normal circumstances, would have seen him play a part at Euro 2016.
Deschamps' confirmation that Benzema is not permanently out of the picture means, if he can enjoy a prolific period of form between now and France's next match against Luxembourg in March, a return to the national team after over a year's absence could be on the cards.