Ballack shows ruthless streak in free-kick row
Friday 16 May 2008
Michael Ballack has revealed his reasons for refusing to back down in his extraordinary on-field row with his team-mate Didier Drogba during last month's League meeting with Manchester United – and said that Chelsea still suffer from a lack of popular appeal because of "envy" over Roman Abramovich's wealth.
The midfielder claimed that Abramovich had asked to meet him after the Carling Cup final and said that Chelsea are still a developing force and had to win "titles, titles, titles. That's the way to start a tradition. We have to work to win their [the public's] favour."
In an interview with the German magazine Stern, Ballack said his argument with Drogba, over who would take a free-kick, came about because he felt he was the best person to take control and because, "I'm 31 years old. I've experienced certain things and had a certain amount of success, why should I be the one to back down?"
Ballack did not take the free-kick but later took the penalty that won the match against United and the German international said he is revelling in the responsibility he now has at Stamford Bridge. "Playing for Chelsea I have to be more ruthless than in the German national team where I've managed to earn myself a different status over the years.
"But you have to face the challenge. You have to make people sit up and take notice of you otherwise you just go under in a team like this, you're just devoured by the machine. And so I've become more ruthless.
Ballack said that though he is "more relaxed" he is taking his new approach into training as well. "Mainly I've become tougher on the other players," he said. "In training, for example when you feel your position on the team is in danger then you have to be fully focused. And if needs be, you send a clear signal saying: I'm not going to budge an inch."
Asked to compare his club with United, the midfielder added: "Our style of play is different to that of Manchester, our game has a tremendous energy. If our team could get some fine-tuning then things would look good for the next couple of years. As a team we're still in a development stage.
"You have to understand that the club has only been playing at this high level in Europe for a few years. And as yet it hasn't developed the typical Chelsea style. You do notice the envy, but it's the same in other clubs. The only difference is Roman Abramovich was one of the first to invest his own private fortune into a football club. But look at Manchester United, Liverpool or Manchester City – they have the same structure of ownership. That's the reality in the strongest League in the world."
Ricardo Carvalho, meanwhile, asked if he intends to remain at Chelsea after this season, said only, – "I don't know yet. I have a contract" – hardly the kind of ringing endorsement of a man at ease with his present surroundings. The Portuguese international also said, when asked about the prospect of this team breaking up after the European Cup final on Wednesday: "You have to be prepared, because when it's like that someone goes, someone stays, someone comes."
One thing that is settled, Carvalho hopes, is his recovery from the back injury which ruled him out of the last Premier League game of the season and threatened to exclude him from Wednesday's final. "I hope it will be 100 per cent," the central defender said.
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