Injured Germany captain Michael Ballack said today he is planning his comeback for January and has had his Christmas holiday cancelled so he can concentrate on his fitness.
The 34-year-old is still on crutches after fracturing a bone in his knee on 11 September during only his third game back in the Bundesliga following the ankle injury he suffered in May which ruled him out of the FIFA World Cup™.
While the rest of the Leverkusen squad can expect a few days off over the Christmas period when the Bundesliga takes a winter break on 20 December, Ballack will be in the rehabilitation centre putting in the hard work.
His goal is to return to Leverkusen's colours, then win back his place in the national side to regain the national team's captaincy before leading Germany to UEFA EURO 2012 to be held in Poland and the Ukraine.
"My goal is to play in the second half of the season," said Ballack, with Leverkusen set to play Dortmund in their first Bundesliga match of the New Year on the weekend of 15 January.
"Then I will be back on the pitch to help the boys. We have plenty of stress in spring - hopefully with crucial games in the Bundesliga, Europa League and the German Cup."
Unable to train at present, Ballack is dividing his free time with family and visits to restaurants, but along with fellow injury victim Steffan Kiessling, he can expect plenty of work when he comes off crutches.
"The other players will get a few days of winter vacation, but Michael and Stefan will spend their holiday time in the rehabilitation centre," Leverkusen's director of sport Rudi Voller told German daily Bild.
And his coach Jupp Heynckes says it will be a long road back for the veteran who has 98 caps to his name and has scored 42 goals for Germany. "Before the new injury, Michael was on the road to finding his best form. Now he again has a lot of work work to do," said Heynckes.
Ballack last played for Germany in March in the 1-0 defeat to Argentina in a FIFA World Cup warm-up match and in his absence Bayern Munich defender Philipp Lahm led the Germans to third in South Africa.
National coach Joachim Low has said Ballack is his first-choice captain and Lahm will only remain as skipper of the side in his absence.