Once upon a time it would have been all about an injury, or a sudden loss of form, or some tragic personal circumstance.

But this is French Football 2015. The issue is rather more sordid.

Incredible though it sounds, it is whether Karim Benzema helped blackmail a fellow French national team-mate over a sexual escapade caught on phone-cam.

The Real Madrid forward has denied wrongdoing, telling police he merely advised Mathieu Valbuena about what to do in a difficult situation.

But investigators believe it is more serious than that, and Karim Benzema faces possible charges of "complicity in a blackmail attempt".

More damagingly, phone transcripts have now been leaked to the press which cast heavy doubt on the official Benzema version.

All in all, the affair has plunged French football into another grave crisis – just as it was emerging from the debacle of South Africa 2010.