Bierhoff plays down spat

Germany say team harmony is as strong as ever

Lahm and Ballack: No problem

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Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff insists Michael Ballack's departure from the camp has nothing to do with captain Philipp Lahm's comments.

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Lahm recently declared his intention to retain his country's armband when previous incumbent Ballack returns to fitness following this summer's World Cup finals.

The report was said to have caused unrest in Germany's camp just over an hour before the German team were due to fly to Durban for their Wednesday semi-final with Spain.

However, Bierhoff insists that everyone remains united and that Ballack's exit was simply to allow the midfield veteran to continue his rehabilitation without impacting the team's resources.

Bierhoff is not looking to gag his player's emotions during the World Cup and insists giving players the freedom to speak their minds simply promotes a healthy and happy atmosphere.

No dissent

"There is no dissent whatsoever, not even a hint of conflict," explained Bierhoff.

"It's not the case, Ballack visited the team in Sicily before the tournament and it was always agreed that he would visit for the quarter-final.

"It is an unfortunate coincidence that Ballack's departure and Lahm's statement coincided.

"He felt good and had excellent physiotherapy, luckily his injury is healing surprisingly fast... he needs a lot of rehab now, he needs special facilities and a lot of time.

"It emerged that Michael didn't want to take out any resources from the team. He knew that if his rehab was to proceed he needed more time from staff... he decided that it was better to continue treatment in Luxembourg.

"We have freedom of speech in the team and need players willing to speak their mind. It is rather like when a player says he is disappointed to be left out -- are you supposed to be annoyed that he is disappointed?

"But in the end, it is the coach who makes the decision over who is captain."

Lahm had been quoted in Bild as saying: "The captain's role has brought me a lot of pleasure. It's a real joy. Why would I want to give it back?

"I'd love to keep the armband, I want more responsibilities. But we will see what happens."