Ballack may join Chelsea before the World Cup, says agent

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The Independent Football

Michael Ballack could be a Chelsea player before the start of the World Cup this summer, the midfielder's agent said yesterday.

Michael Becker confirmed that Chelsea were the only club he was negotiating with and that a deal could be struck before his client leads Germany into the World Cup on home soil.

The 29-year-old Bayern Munich captain is out of contract in May and Becker said: "The transfer window opens in May and the World Cup is coming up.

"I think there is definitely something happening before the World Cup. There is interest from other clubs but Chelsea are the only club we are talking to at the moment."

Ballack's expected arrival has prompted fears that Frank Lampard could be set for a move to Barcelona. The Spanish side, who knocked Chelsea out of the Champions' League, have been long-time admirers of the England midfielder.

A player who says he will not be heading for Stamford Bridge is Barcelona's Mexican international Rafael Marquez, who said yesterday he hoped to end his career with the La Liga leaders, Barça, and dismissed reports linking him with Chelsea.

"I still have one year of my contract to go but my priority is Barcelona and I don't know anything about another offer," Marquez told a news conference.

Spanish media have reported that Chelsea, who Barcelona knocked out of the Champions' League last week, were bidding for the versatile 27-year-old.

"I don't know if it [the Chelsea offer] is real or not but the fact that they are interested in me is pleasing because it means other teams are taking notice of what I am doing," the Mexico captain added. "I respect English football but I want to finish my career here at Barcelona."

The centre-back, who can also play in midfield, joined Barça from Monaco in July 2003 for €5m (£3.4m).

His contract expires in 2007 but Marquez said he hoped to agree a new one soon. Looking ahead, he said: "My immediate objectives are to keep my fitness for the run-in to the end of the league and then to have a great World Cup." In Germany, Mexico are drawn in Group D along with Iran, Angola and Portugal.

The Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, has said he would like to work in the German Bundesliga at some point in the future.

"I like the German league and have been in Germany on many occasions," he said. "I keep a close eye on German football and it would be a big challenge for me. I could certainly imagine coaching Bayern Munich, but they would have to ask me one year in advance to allow me to do a German crash course."

The Portuguese also revealed he has a good relationship with the Germany coach, Jürgen Klinsmann, who has been criticised in Germany for upsetting some of the more established national team players and for his decision not to relocate to Germany from his family home in California.

"I can only speak highly of him," Mourinho said. "I have players from 12 different nations and must be in touch with all national team coaches and my best relationship is with Klinsmann.

"He is open, communicates well and calls regularly just to know how Robert [Huth] is getting on. I also call him to find out how Robert is performing with the national team."