A French court has handed Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema a one-year suspended sentence after he was found guilty of complicity in the attempted blackmail of a former international teammate Mathieu Valbuena.
It was gathered that Benzema was absent in court in the Paris suburb of Versailles for the verdict, which comes hours before Real Madrid take on Sheriff Tiraspol in a Champions League game in Moldova.
His defence team however immediately announced plans for an appeal.
Wednesday sentence was tougher than that sought by prosecutors against the 33-year-old player over the 2015 extortion attempt, which led Benzema to be cast out of the France team for five-and-a-half years.
Speaking to newsmen at the court, one of his lawyers, Sylvain Cormier, said he was “quite stunned by the ruling”.
The prosecution had called for Benzema, who was one of five people charged over an affair that rocked the French national team, to be given a 10-month suspended sentence.
Benzema failed to attend his trial last month, citing professional commitments.
The verdict is not expected to damage his career, with French football federation president Noel Le Graet saying he could keep his place in Les Bleus even if convicted and Real Madrid also remaining supportive of their star player.