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By ESPN Staff

Age no concern to Ballack after Ferguson jibe

After linking up with Chelsea for the first time since Luiz Felipe Scolari's appointment, Michael Ballack hit back at Sir Alex Ferguson's comments downplaying the Blues' title credentials.

The Manchester United boss attempted to kickstart an early war of words with Scolari this week after suggesting Chelsea's ageing squad may not be as much of a threat to the two-time Premier League champions this season.

And with 31-year-old Ballack falling under Ferguson's scope of criticism, the Germany captain quickly pointed towards the example set by the now departed Claude Makelele last season.

'Our team can still improve,' said Ballack. 'If you are 30 or 31 you are not old. Last year Maka was 34 and he played very well. I have nothing to prove, this type of thing happens over the summer, people talking about each other.'

Ballack was given an extended break following Euro 2008 and joined up with Scolari's Chelsea for the first time in Macau ahead of today's friendly with Chinese Super League outfit Chengdu Blades.

Scolari has confirmed Ballack will not take part in the game, or Tuesday's meeting with a Malaysian Select XI in Kuala Lumpur, but he is expected to feature in the Railway Cup in Moscow at the start of August.

Ballack's appearance at the Macau Stsadium also allowed the former Bayern Munich midfielder to comment on Frank Lampard's ongoing transfer saga, with a move to Inter Milan still rumoured to be a possibility.

'It would be fantastic if we could stay at Chelsea,' said Ballack. 'He is a big player for the club and has done a lot for the club, but it is up to him. He knows we are all behind him.'

Following the departure of Makelele to Paris St Germain, Ballack returns to a new-look Chelsea, with the summer signing of Portugal international Deco adding a welcome new dimension to the Blues midfield.

'Maka has left and Deco has come in. We have a good squad and we need a good squad,' said Ballack. 'We want to win a lot of trophies so we need a big squad. Deco is a fantastic player, he gives us more quality and that is what we need. You don't have to sign a lot of players, just quality.

'At the end of last season we were in good shape, if the season was two weeks longer maybe we could have won the league. Manchester United are always competitive and have had two fantastic seasons and won the double last year, but we were very close so this year will be aim to be first.'

Ballack is now looking forward to working closely with former Brazil and Portugal coach Scolari at Chelsea after meeting the Brazilian for the first time in 2002.

'It is different, you know someone for a few moments but now we are together everyday and I am looking forward to it. We have only talked for a few minutes since he took over, but he is a nice person. He is a successful coach and that is why he is here,' added Ballack.

'He has not spoken to me about his philosophy, but we have a good squad like last year and we can play a lot of systems.'


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