German national team coach Joachim Loew held a press conference today in Frankfurt/Main ahead of Germany's first 2012 European Championship qualifier against Belgium in Brussels on Friday. But the match wasn't the topic of the press conference as the present German media only wanted to know the future of Michael Ballack in the national team.
Ballack's future has been a topic of heated discussions here in Germany since the success of the young German team under Philipp Lahm at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The country is divided on the topic as some say Ballack should retire, others he should remain captain and a further opinion has been that Ballack should continue to play for Germany no matter if he is captain or not.
Now Loew informed the media what he told Ballack, Lahm and the rest of the team. And to some it came as a surprise as Loew confirmed that Ballack remains the captain of the team, but the coaching staff would like to see a strengthened players body which would include Ballack, Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Klose. Lahm continues to be the vice-captain and in Ballack's absence would be the team captain.
Ballack has been left out of Germany's squad to face Belgium and Azerbaijan in the coming days due to his long injury lay-off plus lack of match fitness and form. It will have to be seen if Ballack is able to regain full fitness and a decent form to justify a call-up next month when German face Turkey and Kazakhstan, then Loew said he has been very happy with the performances of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira, so Ballack would have to be better then them to get back his spot. Schweinsteiger looks to have a secure place, so one will have to see how Khedira does at Real Madrid and Ballack at Bayer 04 Leverkusen as Khedira has also said, he would like to retain his place in the first eleven.
If Ballack for reasons of performance and fitness is left out again in October, then Lahm would continue to be captain and the discussions will start again about Loew not formally ending Ballack's international career, but forcing it him out on performance grounds.