Bierhoff expects Ballack return, warns of captaincy tussle

Thursday, December 30, 2010

MUNICH - Michael Ballack is likely to return to Germany’s national team but that can not result in a captaincy tussle, said general manager Oliver Bierhoff.

Bierhoff said in an interview with the German Press Agency dpa that he expects Ballack to have the class to return from two injuries into the Germany team in 2011.

“He (Ballack) was very unlucky and is working hard. I believe he will fight back and he has clear goals,” said Bierhoff.

Ballack, 34, missed the World Cup and Philipp Lahm was the captain at the tournament where a young German team impressed the football community with a classy game and third place.

The performance raised questions whether Ballack was still needed in the team. Lahm said he would like to remain captain, but coach Joachim Loew said later that Ballack will be skipper if he makes it back.

Ballack recently said that Lahm showed a lack of respect with his statements on the issue.

But Bierhoff said he is convinced that the 98-times capped Ballack, who aims to play until Euro 2012, can make it back into the team.

“Due to his personality and his name there will always be discussions whether he is the captain or not. The focus is always on him. It will be very important to show that there will be no captaincy tussle,” said Bierhoff.

Ballack, who joined Bayer Leverkusen from Chelsea in summer, will first have to regain form at his club and then also faces stiff competition for a place in the national team where Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira have filled his role very well.

“The team is stable. Michael will integrate as in the past. But of course there will be competition. But this is also motivation for top performances. It is an advantage for everyone,” said Bierhoff.

Bierhoff said in the dpa interview that the World Cup showing has raised the desire among players and fans to win another major title.

“We know there is an impatience to get a title, especially with this young team which has been so promising and has so much quality,” said Bierhoff.

Germany finished third at the last two World Cups and were runner-up at Euro 2008. Germany teams have won three World Cups (the last 1990) and three Euro titles (the last in 1996).

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