A prominent far-right politician has suggested that Karim Benzema should "go and play for the Algerian national team" as the race row surrounding the Real Madrid striker and his part in the France national team continues to escalate.

Benzema, who is of Algerian extraction, will not feature at Euro 2016 nor in Saturday's pre-tournament friendly against Scotland. While the ostensible reason for this is his apparent complicity in blackmailing France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena over his involvement in a sex tape - an incident in which Benzema protests his innocence - the Real Madrid striker said in an interview with Marca on Wednesday that manager Didier Deschamps instead had "bowed to the pressure of a racist part of France". With the atmosphere in France still febrile following the recent terror attacks in Paris, those comments drew a stinging backlash yesterday from, among others, members of the far-right Front National party.

“I find the declarations scandalous,” said Marine Le Pen, who succeeded her father Jean-Marie as leader of Front National in 2011. “I’m not surprised that Mr Benzema hides his wickedness behind a violent charge against the French people.” Her niece Marion – also a Front National MP – had tweeted on Wednesday that the striker should “go and play for his country” if he is not happy with the situation.

Others, including French prime minister Manuel Valls, and 1998 World Cup legend Liliam Thuram, also took issue with Benzema's version of events. “Players aren’t selected on the basis of the colour of their skin or their origins," said Valls. "His comments were irresponsible," said Thuram. "He forgets he has not been selected because of the Valbuena issue. That’s the origin.”

One man, however, is prepared to stand in Benzema's defence: Eric Cantona. Earlier in the week the former Manchester United and Leeds striker had made some loaded comments about Deschamps having a 'very French sounding name'. "I'd like to point out that - like me - he [Benzema] has at no point accused Deschamps of racism," Cantona told Liberation yesterday. "He has only said that Deschamps' decision was influenced by the public opinion, which is the result of the current political climate in France. Benzema showed courage with his comments, because he is still playing and still available for the national team. It is only normal that he thinks like a French citizen before thinking like a player. He has responded to a certain problem."

Dechamps has indicated that he will sue Cantona for his comments but the former Leeds and Manchester United striker was unrepentant last night. "Deschamps seems to be willing to sue me," said Cantona. "It will be the first time he moves from a defensive position into an attacking one ... he will find out whether it's easy."