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By ESPN Staff

Ballack hits back at critical Bierhoff

The war of words between Germany captain Michael Ballack and general manager Oliver Bierhoff has continued to escalate, despite clear-the-air talks last week.

The pair's relationship has been strained to such a degree that the German Football Association (DFB) has stepped in, asking them to resolve their differences last Tuesday when the national team met in Munich.

But Bierhoff could not resist another swipe at Ballack following Germany's 6-0 win over Liechtenstein without their injured captain.

'The national team has played well without Michael Ballack and is not dependent on him,' he said.

Ballack responded by turning Bierhoff's words around in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper on Sunday.

He said: 'The national team has won games before Oliver Bierhoff was manager and it will not be decisive for our future success whether Bierhoff is manager or not.'

The pair clashed at the end of the Euro 2008 final defeat to Spain when Ballack refused to follow Bierhoff's orders and hold up a banner to thank the fans.

The Chelsea midfielder instead made a personal gesture to the Germany fans by applauding them and exchanging consoling words in front of the stands at the Ernst-Happel Stadion.

Ballack is currently unavailable for Germany due to injury, but he has spent time with the squad recently to receive treatment from Dr Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt.

Germany coach Joachim Low recently moved to play down any friction between the pair claiming Ballack would not have joined up with the squad if he had any problems with meeting Bierhoff.

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