Their rivalry in politics was legendary. And today Dominque de Villepin and Nicolas Sarkozy begin a legal showdown in what is being dubbed France’s trial of the century.In the dock in Paris, former prime minister Villepin stands accused of overseeing a plot to smear the current President, in the so-called Clearstream case. Nicolas Sarkozy’s name was on a forged list of leading figures said to have accounts with the Clearstream bank. It was claimed those named had taken bribes from international arms sales. “Beyond the details, which are too complex for everyone to understand, for anyone to grasp, the issue is there is a battle of political wills between two French politicians,” said political analyst Dominique Moisi. The case dates back to 2004 when both men were ministers, waging a bitter battle to succeed Jacques Chirac. Having done so, Sarkozy is now a plaintiff in this case. One of five people on trial, Villepin who denies any wrongdoing, faces up to five years in jail if he is found guilty.