Ballack unhappy with Lahm

Veteran midfielder admits he faces a battle to return to Germany side

Ballack: Not impressed

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Michael Ballack has accused Philipp Lahm of displaying a lack of respect during the debate over who will captain Germany in 2011.

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Former Chelsea midfielder Ballack, who returned to Bayer Leverkusen in the summer, was ruled out of the 2010 World Cup through injury and Lahm took over their country's skipper's armband.

Ballack then sustained a knee injury in only his third match of this season to lead to suggestions that the 34-year-old's international career could be over, especially after the impressive World Cup performance of a young Germany side.

A third-placed finish in South Africa for an exciting team points to a bright future and Lahm said after the finals that he hoped to keep the captaincy, which did not please Ballack.

"It is a question of respect towards the captain," Ballack told Express with Germany due to face Italy in a friendly in February.

Huge challenge

"I have a clear opinion on this, to focus attention on the issue publicly at that time was wrong.

"If he had spoken to me, it would have left me with a very different impression.

"We have since spoken briefly. I still maintain you shouldn't do something like that.

"But we are professionals and something like that should not ever play a role."

In Ballack's absence, Bayern Munich star Bastian Schweinsteiger and Real Madrid's Sami Khedira have formed a strong midfield partnership for Germany.

And Ballack admits he may struggle to win back his place, saying: "I will prove myself again, but I feel that at 34 years of age, it will be harder to reach the level to be able to play at the top again. This is a huge challenge."