Mathieu Valbuena has spoken out for the first time about his teammate Karim Benzema's involvement in an alleged sex tape blackmail plot.
Real Madrid's Benzema was indicted by French authorities on November 5, after he confessed to acting as a mediator between Valbuena and "a childhood friend" who was trying to blackmail his teammate over the existence of tape purportedly containing sex scenes between Valbuena and his girlfriend.
Mr Benzema is currently under investigation for complicity in attempted blackmail, a crime which could carry a prison sentence of at least five years.
Speaking publicly on the matter for the first time, Mr Valbuena, 31, said that his France teammate had encouraged him to meet one of the alleged blackmailers.
"He wasn't aggressive, and he didn't speak to me firmly, directly about money, but when you insist that I meet someone … hmmm. Personally, I've never known of anyone willing to destroy a video for free just because they love me! You can't take people for idiots," Valbuena told Le Monde.
"Afterwards, he said several times that I was dealing with 'big bandits' and he added: 'After all, the video is hot. If it was me, with my family and all … you'd have to be strong.'
"He would say: 'I can introduce you to my friend …' It kept coming back to that. Then when he was about to leave Karim said: 'What shall I do? Shall I give him your number? Should I give you his number?'
"He was inciting me. He was saying, indirectly: 'You will have to pay.'"
The Lyon midfielder admitted he was "deeply disappointed" that someone he had considered a friend and teammate could be involved in such a plot.