Joachim Löw Says Michael Ballack's Days as Capitano Are Over!

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Joachim Löw Says Michael Ballack's Days as Capitano Are Over!
Clive Rose/Getty Images

He is without doubt the greatest German footballer of his generation.

Michael Ballacknow 34 years old—was the feisty "Capitano" of the National team who dominated Germany's midfield for more than 12 years.

He will forever hold the record for most goals scored by a midfielder wearing the prestigious black and white jersey—a mind-boggling 42, netted in 98 appearances.

This tally puts him very close to those of accomplished strikers and Germany-legends Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Jürgen Klinsmann and Rudi Völler, who were all, in their time, liberated from defensive duties to concentrate chiefly on putting the ball over the goal-line.

So his personal achievement carries even more weight.

Spending most matches positioned deep in defensive midfield and ordered to primarily win balls—to tackle, run down and stifle opposing attackers—it was always amazing to see Ballack race up field to score.

It is often forgotten that Ballack rose to international stardom in a period Germans like to describe as darkthe trophy-less era from 1998-2004.

Aside from keeper Oliver Kahn, Ballack was the sole standout player on a national team deemed mediocre, with only Germany's World Cup 2002 final appearance in South Korea deserving an honorable mention.

Alas, football fans around the world will no longer see the standout player on Germany's National team.

Joachim Löw has predictably announced that he will no longer nominate the former captain, a decision that shocked nobody after a rejuvenated Germany played a successful 2010 World Cup tournament without him. 

It is a plausible decision which has, nonetheless, led to a media frenzy in Germany after  Ballack attacked the team-manager for consistently "lying" to him about his future prospects with the National team.

The manager has retorted that this was never the case, and the German Football Federation has echoed that position, officially stating its total incomprehension of the remarks Ballack has made.

After over a week of mutual accusations, it appears that Ballack had wanted to declare his resignation from the national team at a moment of his own choosing, but the manager—for whatever reason—decided to forge ahead and announce his definite "dismissal" to the public.

In short, feelings are hurt. Misunderstanding and distrust abound. Reputations have been tarnished.

This is surprising and also somewhat worrying.

Joachim Löw, professionally lauded for his role in returning Germany to former competitiveness, is at the height of his career as uncontested team-manager, but has—after setting an ill-received example with former defensive Werder Bremen midfielder, Thorsten Frings—again shown a troublesome lack of diplomatic finesse when it comes to handling personality issues which concern the future composition of his team.

In any other country, Ballack's famous No. 13 jersey would most probably be considered for permanent withdrawal in his honor.

Any other football federation would at least have organized an emotional official farewell-match, complete with speeches and flowers, to celebrate the departure of the player who, almost by himself,  kept the national team afloat and who helped a young German side resurrect its fortunes after Jürgen Klinsmann reorganized the team ahead of the 2006 World Cup campaign. 

Yet if reports by Yahoo-Eurosport and Kicker.de are to be trusted, the venerable German Football Federation (DFB) has decided otherwise.

According to a press release by his agent Michael Becker published last week, Ballack learned of Joachim Löw's decision to no longer nominate him for National team duty while reading a newspaper at his vacation site.

"Form and content of the announcement are sadly consistent with the way the team manager has conducted himself towards me ever since my serious injury in the summer of last year".

(They) "surprise and disappoint to an equal degree, because they in no way reflect the statements the team manager made to me (personally)."

"If the impression is now created that I have at all times been dealt with in an open and honest way, then this is a hypocrisy that cannot be outdone".

"To now declare a long-scheduled friendly match," (Germany against Brazil on August 10, 2011), "to be my farewell appearance, is in my view a farce."

And although he acknowledges that he would owe it to his many fans, Ballack has decided to refuse this offer.

So one of Germany's greatest individual players of the past decade unceremoniously leaves the international stage with feelings of resentment and with the understandable grievance of having been deprived of the respect his exceptional career entitles him to.

Although this is a very sad day for all fans of German football, it is also the occasion to look back on some of the greatest moments this exemplary athlete gave to the game which he so passionately and remarkably served. 

As soon as the acrid taste of this unpleasant final episode fades, Germans will again unite to salute the former "Capitano" in a way our Federation apparently could not summon the courage to.

I will make a start by saying: "Respekt, Michael Ballack, und danke!

You are forever in the hearts of those inspired by your devotion to the game we love."

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