Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ballack Trapped in Midfield Dynamo Is Chelsea Comfort Zone; Midfield Dynamo Is at the Heart of Things for Germany but It's a Different Story at the Bridge Where His Special Talents Are Not Being Utilised and He's a Bit-Part Player. by Leo Spall

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ballack Trapped in Midfield Dynamo Is Chelsea Comfort Zone; Midfield Dynamo Is at the Heart of Things for Germany but It's a Different Story at the Bridge Where His Special Talents Are Not Being Utilised and He's a Bit-Part Player. by Leo Spall

Article excerpt

WHEN JOSE Mourinho assessed his squad after the international break, mid f ie

lder Michael Ballack's condition stood out. The German was one of the few who returned to Chelsea in good spirits and fresh after playing only one game for his country.

With Chelsea's schedule about to become unrelenting and a Champions League quarter-final, first leg against Valencia tomorrow, it was the sort of exception the head coach needed.

Whether it will result in Ballack producing something exceptional for his club is another matter. Regardless of how hard the 30-year-old tries, he cannot Cole: We're

shake off the image of a top player happy to operate in his comfort zone.

While Ballack remains at the heart of things for Germany, at Chelsea he sometimes gets stuck on the periphery.

In the past 10 days the contrast was clear u an outstanding international performance in his country's Euro 2008 qualifying win against the Czech Republic and an average one in his club's victory at Watford on Saturday.

The statistics highlight the difference further. Ballack has scored three goals in five games for Germany this season and 35 in 77 appearances in total, but only six in 39 for Chelsea. His problems in London have left him open to swipes from rivals, with the latest dig coming We're not worried from Valencia's Fernando Morientes.

The former Liverpool striker, who misses tomorrow's match because of a dislocated shoulder, said yesterday: "It's difficult to watch a player such as Ballack doing as badly as he is now." The trend could be seen as the reverse of that being experienced by team-mate Frank Lampard for club and country, and the fans' receptions they receive certainly differ.

Whatever anyone else says about the Englishman, Chelsea's supporters still value him highly and Ballack cannot claim the same.

He is yet to win over a sceptical group at Stamford Bridge, some of whom have unfairly given him a hard time. But worried by pain Ballack's club versus country issues require deeper analysis. For Germany, he is the captain and the main star.

He takes free-kicks and penalties, giving him more scoring opportunities than at Chelsea where he competes u usually unsuccessfully u with several others for both roles.

Ballack is also frequently given an orthodox central midfield role for his country alongside Torsten Frings with widemen outside them.

That allows him to carry out a more defensive job, as he did against the Czech Republic, or to get forward with his well-timed runs.

It is a role he clearly feels comfortable with. Ballack said: "I feel very good as pain in Spain

skipper of this brilliant team. I believe Euro 2008 will be a tournament to which Germany can go as a kind of favourite u which is a new feeling. …

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