Ex-Germany captain Michael Ballack and current international Simon Rolfes are vying for one midfield place in the Bayer Leverkusen team, coach Robin Dutt has revealed. "Simon Rolfes and Michael Ballack will not both play in our three-man midfield at the same time," said Dutt with his side to host Werder Bremen in the German league on Sunday evening. "They are both strategists and similar types of players. The probability that one of the two will play is great, the chances of them playing together is zero."
And if either 98-times capped Ballack or Rolfes - who came off the bench for Germany in the 3-2 friendly win Brazil on Wednesday for his 23rd cap - have a problem with that, Dutt has little sympathy. "For anyone who is playing for a club in the Champions League, it is an honour to be allowed to sit on the bench," said the 46-year-old.
Rolfes started alongside Renato Augusto and Lars Bender in Leverkusen's three-man midfield against Mainz. Leverkusen are under pressure after back-to-back defeats: a shock 4-3 loss - having thrown away a 3-0 lead - at second division Dynamo Dresden two weeks ago in the German Cup was followed by a 2-0 defeat last week at Mainz in the league. Bremen opened their league season with an impressive 2-0 win over Kaiserslautern last weekend and Leverkusen need to beat them at home to prove their first two defeats were just hiccups.
Ballack's fall from grace has been a quick one. Having captained the Germans to a 1-0 friendly defeat to Argentina in March 2010 an ankle injury in May ruled him out of the FIFA World Cup™ as Germany came third without him. In his absence, young midfielders Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira proved themselves in South Africa and earned transfers to Real Madrid.
With his contract at Premier League giants Chelsea not extended, Ballack returned to the Bundesliga and Leverkusen exactly a year ago, but he was blighted by injury during his first season back. Germany coach Joachim Loew has made it clear Ballack has no future with the national side and now even Dutt has left him on the bench for both of Leverkusen's first matches.