Karim Benzema insisted it was not in his nature to “give up” as he was forced to concede his World Cup dream with France was over.
A quadriceps problem in his left thigh has flared up and left the 34-year-old resigned to packing his bags rather than contributing for Les Bleus in Qatar.
He won the highly prized Ballon d’Or award last month, recognition of his spectacular form last season, but Benzema will be on the outside looking in on football’s biggest show after suffering a setback in France’s training session on Saturday.
It had been his first full on-pitch activity with the France squad during the pre-tournament camp, with Benzema having been determined to prove his fitness before the team’s opening game against Australia on Tuesday.
He had been bothered by muscular fatigue in the left quadriceps while with Real Madrid in recent weeks, missing several games, and this latest blow may be a recurrence of that problem.
France have the option to call in a replacement for Benzema, who faces around three weeks of recovery. That time span suggests Benzema could have been fit in time to contribute before the end of the World Cup, but it was agreed he should be withdrawn from the squad.
Reports said France would decide whether to summon an additional player on Sunday.
Benzema wrote on Twitter and Instagram: “In my life I never give up but tonight I have to think about the team like I always do, so reason tells me to leave my place to someone who can help our team to have a great World Cup. Thank you for all your messages of support.”
De ma vie je n’ai jamais abandonné mais ce soir il faut que je pense à l’équipe comme je l’ai toujours fait alors la raison me dit de laisser ma place à quelqu’un qui pourra aider notre groupe à faire une belle Coupe du Monde. Merci pour tous vos messages de soutien
— Karim Benzema (@Benzema)
International team-mate and fellow superstar striker Kylian Mbappe replied by writing “Force”, which translates to “Strength”.
France and Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele was another to send a message of support, as was Presnel Kimpembe, the defender who withdrew from the squad at the start of the week due to his own injury.
Benzema’s Real Madrid team-mate Rodrygo, a member of Brazil’s squad, wrote: “The best must compete in the best. You will be missed in the World Cup… Good recovery KB9!”