Luiz Felipe Scolari will be formally announced as Chelsea’s new manager on 1st July – will this mean sweeping changes, including a new captain? The Brazilian will have noticed the impressive performances of Michael Ballack during Euro 2008, especially as his finest hour came against Portugal, the team that Scolari managed.
The Times now report that the German captain has had an increasing say in the tactics of the team, liaising with manager Joachim Low to such an extent that it’s almost as though the Germans have a gaffer on the pich as well as the sidelines (or in the stands as has been the case recently).
“I am more of a captain now,” Ballack said. “I am two years older than in the World Cup and my influence has become greater. I discuss training sessions with the coach more often, as we’ve been working together for four years. We talk often and he asks me what I think. We’ve got to know each other better and better and I’m completely at one with the thoughts of the coach. He knows he can rely on me and I can rely on him.
“After the Croatia defeat, we had an important meeting. As captain, I naturally demanded to discuss our weak points. In certain situations, the team had become a little careless. It only affected us by a few per cent, but it had to be addressed. Everyone had to understand the problems and I dealt with certain players very vigorously, using tougher language than I would have liked. I am not an aggressive guy, but if it concerns the achievement of the national team, then I will show no restraint.”
Chelsea fans will surely be heartened by Ballack’s performances and leadership skills – will it be enough to wrest the captaincy from John Terry? While this might have been unthinkable under the regimes of Avram Grant and Jose Mourinho, a new managerial regime might have fresh ideas and Ballack undoubtedly ticks the right boxes as far as the armband is concerned.