Chelsea midfielder and German national team captain Michael Ballack has criticized German coach Joachim Loew for showing a lack of respect to the team's established senior players. After Loew dropped Ballack's teammate Torsten Frings to the bench for last week's World Cup qualifiers, the captain lamented Loew's policy that national team selection is now based on players' current form alone.
"Torsten has almost 80 caps, and plays regularly in the Champions League [for Werder Bremen] and at a high level," said Ballack . "To push him out, you have to have someone who's better and who can prove that they can perform consistently over a long period of time. Maybe Torsten's not in top form right now, but he's still playing at a very high level. You can't overlook that fact. But I have an uncanny feeling he won't be able to win the fight for his place on the team."
Ballack said that if Loew has no further use for Frings, "he should be honest enough to tell him. Respect and loyalty are the least that you can expect as an established national team player." Ballack also took a backhanded swipe at former German coach Juergen Klinsmann, saying that the publicly announced fight for the goalkeeping spot between Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehman before the last World Cup was "one that in my opinion [Kahn] could never hope to win."
Ballack also had sympathy for Schalke's striker Kevin Kuranyi, who was booted off the national team last week. At halftime in the Russia game Kuranyi left the stadium after not being named to the game-day roster. Ballack said that while Kuranyi leaving the stadium was "unacceptable," he could "well understand" the player's frustration. "He saw that it's getting difficult for him, even though for year after year he's been playing in the Champions League and is a starter for a top Bundesliga side. In important games for club and country he's proven that he can score goals. Those are important criteria for playing for your national team. What direction are we heading in when that no longer counts?"
In response, German FA President Theo Zwanziger expressed his disappointment at the interview, according to Agence France Presse. "Such comments are absolutely inappropriate," said Zwanziger. "In the interest of the success of the team, the authority of the national team coach must have the highest priority."