Germany coach Joachim Loew today hinted former captain Michael Ballack may no longer have a future in the national side after saying the veteran is not his first choice in the midfield. Ballack, 34, has been left out of the Germany squad to face Italy in tomorrow's friendly in Dortmund as he works his way back to fitness after four months out with injury.
Having missed last year's FIFA World Cup after tearing ankle ligaments, Germany finished third in South Africa as Ballack's defensive midfield role was filled by Real Madrid's Sami Khedira alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Loew gave the clearest indication so far that Ballack's international career may be over by saying the former Chelsea star will need to win back his place for next month's UEFA Euro 2012 qualifier against Kazakhstan and friendly with Australia.
"Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger are my first choice in the midfield," said Loew, with Ballack having won 98 caps for his country. We are not in the situation where we need to decide now if Michael Ballack will be back in the side in March. It all depends on him and whether he can produce the type of performances expected in the next few weeks. The quality of the player is what counts and whether he fits in with the style of football we are trying to play."
Uncapped Dortmund midfielder Sven Bender is on the squad and Loew has said he is the back-up for Schweinsteiger and Khedira making Leverkusen's Ballack fourth choice. "He wins a lot of the one-on-one duels, is very aggressive but fair, and is very good at winning the ball," said Loew of Bender.
While Ballack is out in the cold, Loew has recalled defender Wolfsburg's Arne Friedrich even though he has also only recently returned from injury. "Arne Friedrich wasn't out injured for as long as Michael Ballack, who had only played once over 90 minutes and hasn't found his rhythm," explained Loew. "For me it was obvious to bring Arne Friedrich back into the side."