Paris: Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema may be facing a criminal trial after France's highest court of appeal on Monday dismissed his appeal challenging the legality of a blackmail investigation over a sextape featuring fellow footballer Mathieu Valbuena.
The court found that the investigative methods used in the case, in which Benzema is alleged to have colluded in blackmailing Valbuena, were within the law.
Benzema and Valbuena were both in the French national team at the time of the attempted blackmail.
In June 2015, Valbuena, who now plays for Greek club Olympiakos, filed a complaint, claiming he was the victim of an attempted blackmail after receiving a call informing him of the existence of a sextape in which he appeared.
Investigators suspect 31-year-old Benzema of acting as an intermediary between the presumed blackmailers -- including one of his childhood friends - and Valbuena.
Benzema, indicted for "complicity in attempted blackmail", challenged the investigation methods of a police officer who intervened undercover.
His legal team claimed the police used dishonest methods by posing as a friend of Valbuena in a telephone conversation with one of the accused.
The court, however, ruled on Monday that there had been no "breach of fairness", overruling an opinion made in 2017.
There is no further appeal permitted which means the file will return to the office of the investigating judge in Versailles who will decide on whether or not it will go to trial.
"Obviously, it's a disappointment," Benzema's lawyer Patrice Spinosi told AFP.
"There is something schizophrenic in the fact that the Supreme Court is saying the opposite of what it said two years ago. But Karim Benzema has never feared having to face his judges and explaining why he has nothing to do with the accusation if it goes to trial."
Valbuena's lawyer Frederic Thiriez welcomed the decision, saying it was a victory with broader implications.
"This plenary decision goes far beyond this particular sextape affair," he said. "It allows the police, in the interest of victims, to use their investigative techniques to search for and arrest alleged perpetrators of crimes."
Since the affair broke four years ago neither player has been selected again for the French national team, both missing out on Euro in 2016 when Didier Deschamps' team reached the final on home soil, and the 2018 World Cup which they won in Russia.
This season has proved to be one of the best in Benzema's career with 15 goals and seven assists in 19 games across all competitions for Madrid.