Joachim Loew signals end of Michael Ballack's international career

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The Independent Online

Germany midfielder Michael Ballack's international career was ended by coach Joachim Loew today after he told the 34-year-old he was no longer in his plans because of the impact of the squad's younger players.

"The last few months have shown that many young players have stepped into the spotlight and have good prospects," Loew said in a statement.

"After several phone conversations with Michael it is now the time, before the start of the European championship (next year), to have a clear position."

Ballack, who won 98 caps and scored 42 goals since making his debut in 1999, has not played for the national side since March last year after sustaining an ankle injury that forced him to miss last year's World Cup.

A gifted leader on the pitch who failed, however, to win a major trophy with Germany, Ballack has been offered to bid farewell against Brazil in a friendly in August.

One of the midfielder's lowest career moments was when he steered Germany into the 2002 World Cup final but missed that match through suspension with Brazil beating them to win the trophy.

Ballack, who returned to Bayer Leverkusen last year from Chelsea, also lost with Germany in the 2008 Euro final to Spain.

"Michael Ballack was a leading player in the team for a decade and he has a large share in the team's success since the 2002 World Cup," Loew said in a statement.

Loew said he had repeatedly told the player, who was retained as the official captain until now, that the younger generation of players, who were part of Germany's youngest World Cup squad in 76 years last year, were the future.

"In our talks I had the impression that he understood our view. So in the interest of everyone an honest and clear decision was appropriate," Loew said.

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