- Associated Press - Thursday, October 1, 2015

PARIS (AP) - Marseille midfielder Lassana Diarra is back in France’s squad for upcoming friendlies against Armenia and Denmark, five years after his last game with the national team.

The former Chelsea and Real Madrid player joined Marseille this season after a year without football because of a contract dispute with Lokomotiv Moscow.

France coach Didier Deschamps said Diarra, who started his international career in 2007 and has made 28 appearances for France, was rewarded for his excellent start to the season and that his vast experience at the highest level is a valuable asset.

“I also selected him because he plays a strategic role in front of the defense, a very important role,” Deschamps said Thursday.

Diarra had announced the end of his international career two seasons ago.

“All that I know is that he craves the chance of being in the France squad, otherwise I wouldn’t have called him,” Deschamps said.

Deschamps gave a first call to goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, currently on loan at Villarreal from Paris Saint-Germain.

Areola won the Under-20 World Cup with France three years ago, along with Paul Pogba and Geoffrey Kondogbia, and was brought in at the expense of Saint-Etienne goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier.

Hugo Lloris - Deschamps’s first-choice goalkeeper - and Marseille’s Steve Mandanda have also been called up.

“Areola is performing well at Villarreal, which stands at the top of the Spanish league with one of the best defenses,” Deschamps said.

With Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny out injured, Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho is also returning, alongside Rennes forward Paul-Georges Ntep.

On the back of strong performances with Manchester United, Anthony Martial received a second straight call in a group including strikers Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud.

“Martial has the potential, but many have been surprised to see him perform with such consistency,” Deschamps said. “It was not easy after all the things that were said and written.”

Martial, who became the most expensive teenager ever after United agreed to pay Monaco up to 80 million euros ($90 million) for his services, has scored four goals in six matches.

As host, France has automatically qualified for Euro 2016 and must rely on friendly matches to get ready for the tournament. The team hosts Armenia on Oct. 8 before a trip to Denmark three days later.

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France squad:

Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola (Villarreal), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille)

Defenders: Patrice Evra (Juventus), Christophe Jallet (Lyon), Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool), Benoit Tremoulinas (Sevilla), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Kurt Zouma (Chelsea)

Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace), Lassana Diarra (Marseille), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Morgan Schneiderlin (Manchester United), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle)

Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Paul-Georges Ntep (Rennes), Mathieu Valbuena (Lyon)

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