Germany captain Michael Ballack has left the squad on the final day of their training camp in Sicily and wished them well for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. The Chelsea midfielder will miss the tournament due to an ankle injury sustained in Saturday's FA Cup final win over Portsmouth, but he has spent the last few days with his compatriots as they fine-tune their preparations.
Before leaving, he told the squad to "forget about my injury" and concentrate on winning the Trophy without him. "It was taken for granted for me that I would come here," he told the Germany players.
"You have now got to forget about my injury fast and look forward. You are a strong team, whoever is nominated (in the final 23-man squad) and whoever plays. I am certain that you will play a good and successful World Cup."
Ballack quashes retirement concerns
Meanwhile, Ballack has rubbished claims made in the German media today that a revolutionary treatment could have got him back on his feet again within a fortnight and enabled him to play in South Africa.
"I had also hoped this, but the doctor (national team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt) soon took the wind out of my sails," he told Kicker magazine. "There is no alternative to the decision and the treatment."
Ballack has also allayed fears that he would never play again. "Muller-Wohlfahrt has assured me (that there is no risk) and he has 30 years' experience, so he should know," said the 33-year-old. "The injury will heal completely and I will be playing normally again next season."
The Germany squad left Sicily on a separate plane to Ballack, flying to Verona before transferring to their next training camp in Sudtirol. They will be based there until 2 June, during which time they will play friendly matches against Hungary in Budapest and Bosnia-Herzegovina in Frankfurt.
Coach Joachim Low will decide over the next fortnight how he will be trimming his squad of 26 players down to just 23. He is due to make his decision public at the end of the second and final training camp, before flying to South Africa on 6 June.