Ballack makes final bow


BERLIN, March 10 – Ex-Germany captain Michael Ballack is set to win his 99th — and final — cap in August's international friendly against Brazil, according to reports here on Wednesday.

Germany coach Joachim Loew is set to meet Ballack later this month to discuss the ex-Chelsea star’s international future and his possible farewell match against Brazil in Stuttgart on August 10, the Bild daily reported.

Ballack is not expected to be involved in Germany’s Euro 2012 qualifier against Kazakhstan on March 26 or the friendly with Australia on March 29.

After making his return from injury in January, Ballack has failed to win a place in Bayer Leverkusen’s midfield and refused a place on the bench for Saturday’s 3-0 win over Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga.

Bild claim Ballack is now set to win his 99th and final cap for Germany against Brazil in what would be his official farewell game, an honour last bestowed on ex-captain Oliver Kahn in September 2008.

Ballack, 34, suffered an injury-ravaged 2010 as back-to-back injuries kept him out of football for the best part of six months and he last played for Germany in March 2010 in the pre-World Cup defeat to Argentina.

An ankle injury last May ruled Ballack out of South Africa’s World Cup, then a fractured leg in September, during only his third game back, kept him out of football until January.

Ballack has now fallen out with Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes for refusing a place on the bench.

He is on an individual fitness regime in an attempt to regain a position in Leverkusen’s first team and has only played in eight Bundesliga matches since his free transfer from Chelsea last summer.

With his side second in the Bundesliga, Ballack is far from happy to settle for a place among the substitutes, according to Leverkusen general manager Rudi Voller.

"Michael has told Jupp that he is not the kind of player to start a match on the bench in order to be put in later on," Voller told Sky television.

But Heynckes said Ballack’s fitness does not merit a place in his strongest starting line-up. "I have three to four midfielders in better shape and who are playing better than Michael Ballack at the moment," he said.

"I am the manager, I have to pick the team based on performance criteria."

Heynckes explained that his policy is not to rush back players who are not fit yet.

"There are many examples in the Bundesliga of players who just take a long time to come back after injury," added Heynckes.

"Unfortunately, this is often ignored by the media.

"The fact that Michael was twice injured is giving it a very different dimension."