Germany coach Joachim Low says Michael Ballack must fight for his place in the national side when he returns from injury and he will tell the veteran if he has no international future.
Ballack, 34, is recovering from the fractured left knee cap he suffered playing for Leverkusen in only his third game back after he picked up a right ankle injury in May which kept him out of the FIFA World Cup™.
In Ballack's absence, Real Madrid's Sami Khedira forged a solid midfield partnership with Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger, but Low says Ballack still has plenty of football left to offer Germany.
"If I thought that Michael could not help us, I would have told him long ago and that is not the case," Low told German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung. "When I make a decision, I shall immediately inform the player concerned."
Low is as good as his word: he met veteran midfielder Torsten Frings before the FIFA World Cup to tell the Bremen star, with 79 caps, he would not be part of his squad for South Africa.
Despite having 98 caps to his name, Ballack will have to work to regain his place, says Low. "I want players fighting for their place," he insisted. "Michael has the experience and class, he will fight for his place. Nobody can demand that I make a final decision about this when the next tournament is in 2012."
Ballack was left out of Germany's first two victories against Belgium and Azerbaijan in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers and misses Friday's key match against Turkey in Group A and Kazakhstan in Astana four days later.