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 By Mark Rodden

Karim Benzema close to France return as Mathieu Valbuena restriction lifted

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema moved a step closer to becoming available for Euro 2016 after legal restrictions preventing him from meeting France teammate Mathieu Valbuena were officially lifted by an appeals court on Friday.

Benzema, 28, was charged with conspiracy to blackmail in November over an alleged attempt to extort money from Lyon winger Valbuena using a sex tape.

The terms of Benzema's judicial supervision had forbidden him from coming into contact with Valbuena in the case, and he was indefinitely suspended from the French national team as a result. 

However, last month the investigating judge lifted the order that prevented Benzema from meeting Valbuena. And on Friday, the former Lyon player received another boost when an appeal against this decision was rejected.

"The Versailles appeals court confirmed the decision of the investigating judge, which allows Karim Benzema to meet Mathieu Valbuena," L'Equipe quoted Olivier Combe, one of Benzema's legal team, as saying.

Benzema's lawyers are now confident that the latest ruling will pave the way for his return to the France squad.

"Common sense has reasserted itself," another of Benzema's lawyers, Sylvain Cormier, told reporters

"This decision lifts the legal obstacles that could have existed."

In December, French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet said that being able to meet Valbuena again was one of the ways in which Benzema could see his suspension lifted.

When asked what it would take for Benzema to become eligible for selection again, Le Graet responded: "That the judge decides that the case file is dead or that he and Valbuena become friends again after the judge decides that they can meet."

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