Sun, Nov 02, 2008 - Page 18 News List

Ballack will be captain, Loew says after meeting

AFP , BERLIN

German national team midfielder Michael Ballack, second right, national team head coach Joachim Loew, second left, defender Gonzalo Castro, left, and goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand play mountaineers during the shooting of an advertisement in Gross-Gerau, near Frankfurt, Germany, on Feb. 4. Loew met face to face with Ballack on Friday to discuss the situation after Ballack attacked Loew in a German newspaper.Following the meeting, Loew announced that the Chelsea midfielder would remain captain of the national team.

PHOTO: AFP

Chelsea star Michael Ballack will remain as Germany captain despite his criticism of Joachim Loew, national coach Loew announced on Friday.

Ballack had flown from London to Frankfurt on Thursday to apologize directly to Loew for a newspaper interview last week in which he said the coach should show his senior players more loyalty and respect after veteran midfielder Torsten Frings was dropped.

Ballack, 32, apologized last weekend in a press release, but Loew insisted the Chelsea midfielder fly to the German Football Federation (DFB) offices in Frankfurt to meet face to face on Thursday and explain his comments. Munich newspaper Abendzeitung claimed on Thursday that Ballack was set to resign as Germany captain, but remain in the team with Bayern Munich defender Philipp Lahm taking over as the new skipper.

“Michael Ballack will remain as captain,” Loew said on Friday, however, after the German soccer fraternity had been waiting eagerly for a decision since much earlier in the day.

It seemed Loew had wanted to take his time on making this important decision for a team that under-performed at Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland during the summer.

“Even a captain has to respect the rules,” Loew said. “He [Ballack] knows he can discuss an internal situation at any time. But all the sporting and selection decisions will in the final analysis be taken by our team of coaches and I made that known to Michael without the slightest trace of ambiguity.”

Ballack, who has played 89 times for Germany, said: “I understand that it was not appropriate for me to express myself in public and I am sorry that that gave the impression that I wanted to criticize Loew in his role as coach. I told him I was sorry.”

Ballack, who was named captain by former coach Jurgen Klinsmann in August 2004, succeeding former keeper Oliver Kahn, had already said he was sorry last week, but Loew still wanted a meeting with him before taking a decision on his future. Many observers apparently believed Loew had little choice but to keep Ballack in his role as skipper.

Legendary German player Franz Beckenbauer summed up that feeling by saying: “Ballack is the best player we have at the moment, the only one of real world class. He has become a really good captain these last few years. A coach cannot do without such a player.”

With less than two years to go to the World Cup in South Africa, Ballack is seen generally as a key figure in their attempt to regain the glory days of their 1990 World Cup victory. Germany’s next match is a Nov. 19 friendly against England in Berlin.

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