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Ballack´s charm offensive on Germany team-mates

18 March 2009 17:10

BERLIN (AFP) - Germany captain Michael Ballack has been working hard to build bridges with his team-mates following last autumn's spat with national coach Joachim Loew, senior players have revealed.

Chelsea midfielder Ballack caused a storm here last autumn when he accused Loew of failing to show senior players enough respect and loyalty after veteran midfielder Torsten Frings was kept on the bench for two World Cup qualifiers.

Ballack was later forced to issue an apology and backed down, but it became clear things were not entirely harmonious in the Germany camp.

And senior players defender Philipp Lahm and striker Miroslav Klose have revealed Ballack is now working hard to improve his image within the national team.

"He approaches players far more now than he used to," Bayern Munich's Lahm told Stern magazine.

And Klose, who misses both Germany's qualifiers against Leichtenstein, in Leipzig on March 28, and Wales, on April 1 in Cardiff, with an ankle injury, says Ballack must lead by example on and off the field.

"You notice that Michael tries to integrate himself more," said Klose, who has captained Germany in Ballack's absence.

"But he must also do that on the field, that will not happen today or tomorrow, but is something he must learn and create for himself."

After Germany lost the Euro 2008 final 1-0 to Spain in Vienna last June, several senior players criticised Ballack for using strong language, especially in his on-field row with team manager Oliver Bierhoff.

Ballack later justified his words by saying when he started his career, a football dressing room was the place where problems within the team were thrashed out.

"Things are different to how they were," said Ballack, who made his debut in 1999.

"My challenge is to conduct myself as the captain of the national team and to be approachable for the younger players."

And Loew himself says he has seen a change in attitude from his captain, who has won 90 caps.

"During the last game, I had the feeling that Michael was communicating more and that is good," said the national coach.

Germany have lost their last two games at home - the first time that has happened since 1956 - when they went down 2-1 to England at Berlin's Olympic Stadium last November and were then humbled 1-0 by Norway in February.

Minnows Leichtenstein - ranked 151 in the world - take on Germany on March 28 in a World Cup qualifier and Germany need a convincing win to underline their place as group leaders ahead of Russia.

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