Cantona defends Benzema comments

Eric Cantona has defended Karim Benzema's remarks about France manager Didier Deschamps bowing to racists by leaving the striker out of his Euro 2016 squad.

Benzema claimed on Wednesday that political pressure and racism are behind Deschamps' decision to exclude him from the final 23-man party.

His comments have sparked outrage but Cantona shares the same sentiments as the Real Madrid striker, adding that he had every reason to speak up.

"I am absolutely not surprised by Benzema's comments. I'd like to point out that – like me – he has at no point accused Deschamps of racism," the Manchester United icon told Liberation.

"He has only said that Deschamps' decision was influenced by the public opinion, which is the result of the current political climate in France.

"Benzema showed courage with his comments, because he is still playing and is still available for the national team. But it is only normal that he thinks like a French citizen before thinking like a player. He has responded to a certain problem."

Cantona himself had questioned Deschamps' selection criteria last week, claiming that his compatriot had snubbed Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa because of their African heritage.

"It is clear that when you discard a player like Benzema, you take away an entertaining player. For me, it was an unfair decision, so I asked questions about it," the Frenchman added.

"I don't care about the reaction to my comments. Controversies like this last 24 hours during which the morons speak up and then people move on.

"I said it was possible Benzema was left out because of what happened with [Mathieu] Valbuena. But that does not mean I cannot ask questions. The minister of sports and two members of the government wanted Benzema out of the Euros.

"That is enough for me to question the independence of Deschamps. Benzema was suspended in between regional elections. The mood has changed in France since Charlie Hebdo. There is a certain attitude toward people of north-African origins.

"But Benzema is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. If he is found innocent, he will still have missed the Euros. As for Ben Arfa, he is only guilty of being one of the best two or three French players out there."