Rudi Voller has claimed Germany captain Michael Ballack is irreplaceable after the Chelsea player was ruled out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ due to an ankle injury.

The 33-year-old sustained ligament damage to his right ankle in Saturday's FA Cup final, and an MRI in Munich this morning confirmed he would not recover in time to take part in the global finals.

Voller, who occupied the Germany hot-seat from 2000 to 2004, said in the Bild newspaper: "It's brutal, terrible for Michael.

"He was full of optimism and wanted to play a good World Cup. There are players in the team who can't be replaced and Michael Ballack is certainly one of them ."

Michael Ballack is an excellent player but, above all, he is a leader. I do not see many alternatives, Michael Ballack is very difficult to replace.

Dieter Hoeness

Wolfsburg general manager and former Germany international Dieter Hoeness feels Ballack's influence will also be missed in the dressing room. "It is a setback, no question," he said.

"Michael Ballack is an excellent player but, above all, he is a leader. I do not see many alternatives, Michael Ballack is very difficult to replace."

Former Germany midfielder Olaf Thon added: "After losing Michael Ballack, we have lost the head of the team. For him personally, it is a real shame because South Africa would have been his last World Cup as a player."

Berti Vogts, another former Germany coach, hopes Ballack's absence will allow other players - most notably Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger - to take on a more important role.

"His absence could prompt other players to give more," said the 63-year-old. "Bastian, for example, is in superb form and I think he can be one of the leading personalities at this World Cup."