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 By Ian Holyman

Karim Benzema 'leading 3-0 in 89th minute' in extortion case - lawyer

Karim Benzema has not played for France since October 2015 due to the attempted extortion charges.

A lawyer for Karim Benzema has described his client as "leading 3-0 in the 89th minute" after a French court gave the Real Madrid striker a boost in the case of alleged attempted extortion of Mathieu Valbuena.

Benzema, 29, faces preliminary charges of conspiracy to blackmail relating to an extortion scam over a sex tape involving France teammate Valbuena.

He has always denied accusations he acted as a go-between for the blackmailers and Fenerbahce midfielder Valbuena, 32, in a case that has already lasted more than two years.

However, on Tuesday, France's highest court for judicial matters, the Court of Cassation, ruled an undercover police officer's actions in the case had been unlawful, and ordered the Paris Court of Appeal to look again at the investigation's validity.

"What he did was completely underhand, and an underhand investigation is -- fortunately -- punished in a law-abiding country," Eric Dupond-Moretti, a member of Benzema's legal team, told L'Equipe. "We'll now see what the consequences are of this ruling. We're leading 3-0 in the 89th minute. But there is still a minute left.

"Of course I would like the whole investigation to be dropped. A policeman who invents a name for himself to call back the supposed blackmailers and start them off again is quite amazing. In this case, when they saw the names Valbuena and Benzema, the investigators felt wings grow."

Valbuena, who -- like Benzema -- has not played for his country since October 2015 before the affair came to light, was defended by former French Football League (LFP) president Frederic Thiriez, who noted that "nothing is settled."

Thiriez, a lawyer by trade, highlighted the fact the ruling would "delay the case being heard," with a court hearing -- if one should happen -- unlikely to be scheduled before the end of next summer's World Cup.

Benzema will be hopeful of appearing for France at the tournament in Russia, a prospect that appears all the more possible now his involvement in a court hearing has been significantly reduced, according to his lawyers.

"We have just passed an important step, it's a complete turnaround," Patrice Spinosi, another of the former Lyon striker's counsel, told L'Equipe. "The case has been turned on its head. And today, the risk Karim Benzema will face a court has been severely reduced."

Ian is ESPN's French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman

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