Germany coach Joachim Low has raised doubts as to whether Michael Ballack will ever return to the national team following his latest injury setback.
Ballack will miss the next six weeks after picking up a micro-fracture of his left shin during Bayer Leverkusen's Bundesliga game last weekend and he has not appeared for Germany since March, when he picked up his 98th cap in the friendly defeat to Argentina.
An ankle injury picked up in the FA Cup final forced him to miss the World Cup and he was not included in Low's latest squad selection since the Germany coach deemed he had not yet fully recovered from that injury.
Now, Low is wondering whether Ballack will ever be able to get back to full fitness and a good enough level of form to be considered for the national team once again.
''Generally speaking, and this does not only apply to Michael Ballack, everybody has got to realise when their time at the top is over,'' said Low to the Badische Zeitung newspaper. ''After this latest injury setback, we are going to have to see whether Michael Ballack makes it to Euro 2012, when he will be 35.''
Meanwhile, Bayern Munich director of sport Christian Nerlinger has defended Miroslav Klose after the striker came in for criticism for his contrasting goalscoring fortunes with club and country.
Klose scored just three goals for Bayern all last season, but went on to net five times for Germany at the World Cup and bagged two against Azerbaijan recently.
''First of all, I think teams like Azerbaijan are poorer than our opponents in the Bundesliga so you can't really compare them,'' he told Sport Bild magazine.
''But certainly games for the national team are special moments. Of course our players are equally professional for the club and always try to give their all.''