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between cumbersome friends and threatening brother, the sometimes sulphurous entourage of footballers

In football, dirty laundry can be washed in the family but very rarely in public, as in the case of the affair between the 2018 world champion, Paul Pogba, and his older brother, Mathias, which follows as a series between threat of “big revelations” on social networks, accusation of attempted extortion, and press release from lawyers. Since Sunday August 28, the Pogba clan has been torn apart in broad daylight, very far from the image of this united sibling (the “pogfamily”) sold for years by the middle of the Blues.

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Very often, these cases do not cross the threshold of hearsay, or else are told between well-informed people, but not enough to expose them in the public square. It would thus be a question, among other (and numerous) examples, of a president of a Ligue 1 club threatened by the « friends » of a player who has decided to obtain his exit voucher or of a French international who is regularly extorted. Some leaders also confide that they have given up on a potential recruit, scalded by an entourage known to be toxic or sulphurous, which was not the case, it was believed, from the middle of Juventus Turin until the sensational video of threats from Mathias.

Catch-all word, « entourage » can evoke a brother playing the unofficial agent as well as this childhood friend with vague functions, ready to defend the « interests » of the player, carry out some menial tasks or improvise image consultant . The most famous case is that of Karim Benzema and Karim Zenati, two children from the estates of Bron, in the Lyon suburbs. Promised for the Ballon d’Or this season, the Real Madrid striker was sentenced in November 2021 to a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 75,000 euros for « complicity in attempted blackmail » on his former teammate of the France team, Mathieu Valbuena. When the « sextape » affair broke out in 2015, Mr. Zenati bought and resold cars for the striker of the Spanish club, of which he was also an employee in a company, Best of Benzema, and an association, Partages 9 , which aims to help underprivileged children achieve their dreams.

Initially, Karim Zenati was not the mastermind of this blackmail, but he accepted the role of intermediary with a Benzema whose international career and reputation would be weighed down for years. « He’s my friend, like a brother (…) I have succeeded in my life. I share it with him, because he’s been my friend since I was little.confides, at the time, the Madrilenian during his police custody, as a prisoner of this loyalty to a friend whose twenty-four mentions nevertheless appeared in the criminal record. Since then, Mr. Zenati (sentenced to 15 months suspended but who appealed) embodies the archetype of the cumbersome old friend whose entourage of footballers would swarm.

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