Ballack discusses armband and aspirations
Michael Ballack has warned Philipp Lahm he fully intends to captain Germany in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying. The 33-year-old, who recently returned to Bayer Leverkusen on a free transfer, was ruled out of the FIFA World Cup™ by an ankle injury suffered on his last appearance for Chelsea, in the FA Cup final at Wembley in May.
In his absence, Lahm led a spirited young team to the semi-finals in South Africa, having famously beat England 4-1 along the way, before finishing third. However, the 26-year-old fullback has maintained he has no intentions of giving up the armband voluntarily.
Ballack, though, has insisted he is the man to now take Germany's next generation forward, and will let Lahm know exactly that when the pair eventually come face to face, likely to be for the opening EURO 2012 qualifier against Belgium in Brussels on 3 September.
"Philipp's remarks were not warranted, even though the timing of his remarks was unfortunate because I was out injured and could not mount my own defence," Ballack told ESPN Soccernet.
"Still, players can't tell the coach where to pick them and the same applies to the captaincy. You have to respect the hierarchy and when we next meet up, I will talk the matter over with Philipp."
"For me, the matter is clear - I am the captain of Germany and intend to take on the role again when I am fit. I can't wait to lead Germany into the EURO 2012 qualifiers and make a success of it. I believe in myself as the captain and think I have the personality to do it.
"Missing this year's World Cup due to injury was a real blow, and there is no way I am about to settle for a final curtain like that. I am still hungry and when you are sidelined at just the wrong moment you become even hungrier. I know I can still contribute to a Leverkusen side on the verge of great things."
Germany coach Joachim Low may be looking to the future, but Ballack, who turns 34 at the end of September, believes he still has plenty to offer. "Not for one instant do I feel like a player in decline," he said.
"Before being ruled out of the World Cup, I was at the heart of the national team and even though the boys played well in South Africa, I am not ready to throw in the towel. My motivation is still intact and once I have proved my fitness and form with Leverkusen, I want to return to the national team."
Ballack did not have his Chelsea contract renewed when it expired in the summer, and like England playmaker Joe Cole, he was allowed to leave on a free transfer. Although it was no surprise to see the veteran German - signed by the Blues on a free transfer from Bayern Munich in 2006 - return to the Bundesliga, he would have preferred to stay at Stamford Bridge.
"I would have loved to finish my career at Chelsea, and they were my number one option when my contract expired last summer," revealed Ballack. "I was a little disappointed when we could not come to an agreement on a new contract because at one point, I thought we would get there. I know I had the backing of the coach (Carlo Ancelotti), but unfortunately it didn't happen and I had to move on to my next challenge with Leverkusen."
"I don't feel any bitterness towards Chelsea and I hope they keep on winning. Chelsea is a special club where I spent four great years, and we won many trophies. I was treated very well by the people at the club and there was always a great spirit in the squad.
"We had many champions in the team, six or seven national team captains, and yet our biggest asset was unity, with all these top-class players putting egos in their pockets for the good of the team. It is pretty unique in my opinion.
"Ancelotti is an excellent organiser, they have the footballing ability, character and physical strength. I see them as one of the favourites for the Champions League in 2011."