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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 9 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
Sep 6, 2007

Chelsea: Ballack left out for medical reasons

LONDON, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Chelsea have denied that Germany captain Michael Ballack has been left out of their Champions League squad because he has no future with the London club.

Playmaker Ballack has failed to produce his top form since joining from Bayern Munich last year and has not played for Chelsea since April because of an ankle injury.

'Chelsea Football Club would like to reiterate that Michael Ballack's omission from the UEFA Champions League group phase squad was taken only because of injury,' a club statement said.

'There is no other reason for the decision and suggestions to the contrary are unfair on both Michael, who is attempting to get fit as soon as possible and our medical team in whom we have every confidence.'

Ballack's exclusion from the squad fuelled speculation that the 30-year-old Germany international might leave Stamford Bridge.

Germany coach Joachim Loew said he was surprised at Chelsea's decision while Franz Beckenabauer suggested that Ballack should never have joined Chelsea.

'Moving to Chelsea was a mistake, I think,' Beckenbauer, chairman of Bayern Munich's supervisory board, told Bild newspaper on Thursday.

'At Manchester United his position was free and he would have fitted in perfectly. The same at Real Madrid. At Chelsea, his place was already taken by Frank Lampard -- a top player and a local hero.'

If Ballack does recover fitness over the next four months he would be eligible for the later stages of the competition should Chelsea qualify.

Chelsea have been drawn with Spain's Valencia, Schalke 04 of Germany and Norwegians Rosenborg Trondheim in Group B.

Meanwhile, Bayern Munich president Franz Beckenbauer believes Ballack should have joined Manchester United instead of Chelsea.

'I think it was a mistake to move to that club (Chelsea),' Beckenbauer told German newspaper Bild. 'There was a space available for his position with Manchester United and he would have fitted into their system perfectly.

'The same with Real Madrid. But at Chelsea his role was already filled by Frank Lampard.'

Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster claimed Ballack was only prevented from moving to Spain this summer because of an agent's fee.

But with Madrid having spent almost £50million and Ballack's massive £130,000-a-week wages in England, Beckenbauer does not see how the midfielder can go anywhere when the window opens again in January.

'Where can he move to now?' said Beckenbauer. 'His first transfer opportunity is during the winter and I hardly suppose Bernd Schuster's Madrid are interested after bringing in Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder.'

But a return to Munich was quickly dismissed by the Bayern president who added: 'No, that won't happen.

'Firstly it isn't what he wants and in all honesty we can no longer afford to pay his wages.'