Ballack suspects conspiracy
Former Germany captain Michael Ballack claims there was a plot against him which led to him losing the national team armband.
Ballack's international career was ended after a challenge by Kevin-Prince Boateng in the FA Cup final in 2010 ruled the then-Chelsea midfielder out of that year's World Cup due to injury, and he never made a return.
He visited the Germany team in South Africa, but on the day he returned to Germany, current captain Philipp Lahm gave an interview in which he said he wanted to take the captain's armband on a full-time basis. Ballack now believes there was no coincidence regarding the timing of those remarks.
''He is an intelligent lad and you don't just give an interview like that in such a situation,'' said Ballack. ''He must have agreed it with the coach to lean so far out of the window. That is what my feeling tells me. I was the captain and I know how people behave within a group. Philipp then became captain and it was a strange situation for me.
''I have not spoken with Philipp about the situation. At some point, you have got to let bygones be bygones.''
Ballack's desire to forget about the national team also led him to turn down their belated offer of a testimonial match. That offer came after months of claiming that Ballack still had a future as national team captain before informing him that he would not even play another match for Germany.
''It has nothing to do with pride,'' explained Ballack on Sky television. ''If they had been open with me and told me their intentions, then I would have been the last person not to cooperate to find a solution.
''It would have been fair to discuss things with me, but that didn't happen. It is only logical that I turned down the testimonial because I had been kept waiting for 11 months, not knowing where I stood.
''So many things happened which were not correct and I think my reaction is understandable.''
Ballack is now facing a similar situation with his club Bayer Leverkusen. He has not been a regular all season, leading the club's general manager Wolfgang Holzhauser to claim earlier this year that it had been a mistake to sign Ballack on a free transfer in 2010.
However, Ballack says his problem has been with the coach, be it Robin Dutt this year or Jupp Heynckes last season.
''I wanted to play another two years at the highest level and my aim was to challenge for titles with Leverkusen and that Leverkusen signed a player like me was therefore the decisive step,'' he said. ''But I never had the feeling that the coaches saw it that way.
''I had other offers, but Leverkusen has a place in my heart and I came back to give the club something back, and I felt fit. I think there were internal communication problems regarding my role. I had the feeling that the coach was planning with other, younger players.''
Ballack is now pondering the next step in his future, although he does not plan on retiring yet.
An offer from Major League Soccer seems to be the most likely option, though: ''I have not made up my mind yet, but I think I will look for a sporting challenge elsewhere,'' said the 35-year-old. ''I think that will be abroad, but it could go in that direction (of the MLS).''