Cole and Ballack set to leave Chelsea
Chelsea stars Joe Cole, Michael Ballack and Juliano Belletti are set to leave the club after failing to agree new contracts.
Cole and Ballack are out of contract on July 1 and though Chelsea have been locked in negotiations with the pair throughout the season aimed at tying up new deals, the Blues have now withdrawn their offers because of excessive wage demands.
Germany captain Ballack arrived on a free transfer from Bayern Munich in 2006 and will now be available for nothing again after he was refused a two-year deal by the Stamford Bridge hierarchy. A one-year contract with reduced terms was was turned down by the 33-year-old.
"Chelsea Football Club can confirm Michael Ballack will be leaving the club upon the expiration of his contract at the end of this month," a statement on the club's officiual website said.
"The midfielder has spent four years at Chelsea, and all at the club would like to place on record our thanks for his service and wish him luck for the future."
Ballack has consistently been one of Chelsea's biggest earners throughout his four-year stay with the club, but chief executive Ron Gourlay has been keen to lower the club's wage bill with the ultimate aim of breaking even, and Ballack's £121,000-a-week wages are likely to be a welcome reduction.
A return to Germany or money-spinning move to the Middle East awaits for Ballack, who will be playing no part in the World Cup in South Africa after suffering an ankle injury during Chelsea's FA Cup final victory.
Cole's future has been clearer for some time, though Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins had suggested last weekend that the club would be working towards holding on to him.
Carlo Ancelotti had also informed the Chelsea board that he was keen to extend Cole's stay, and the club's fans had vocally expressed their desire for him to stay towards the end of last season.
In reality, the contract offers for both Cole and Ballack were withdrawn several weeks ago after it became clear the pair would not lower their demands.
The England midfielder had been hoping to secure a £100,000-a-week deal, but this was rejected by the club and he will now be free to talk to look elsewhere, with Tottenham and Manchester City thought to be among his most likely destinations.
A statement on the Chelsea website read: "Chelsea Football Club can confirm that Joe Cole will be leaving the club upon the expiration of his contract at the end of this month.
"It brings to an end Joe's seven-year stay at Stamford Bridge, and we would like to thank him for his dedicated years of service and wish him well in his future career."