Ballack checks the royal class: That’s for the Germans in there
Munich – Michael Ballack makes the expert check for the Champions League at SPORT1. He takes a critical view of FC Bayern and puts Carlo Ancelotti under his obligation. The Champions League is on the starting blocks and promises to be a tough battle for Europe’s crown for the European top teams this year, with Michael Ballack, an ex-professional who was already close to winning the royal class. The 40-year-old reached the final with both Bayer Leverkusen (2002 against Real Madrid) and Chelsea (2008 against Manchester United). SPORT1 has met Ballack on the verge of a betfair date. In an interview Ballack looks at the Champions League season and explains who is the top favourite for the title win and what role the German teams of Bayern Munich can play (show your expertise – this is where the SPORT1 prediction game for the Champions League is concerned)SPORT1: Mr. Ballack, last season Real Madrid was the first team ever to defend the title in the Champions League. Michael Ballack:”There’s no getting around that. Real Madrid is certainly the measure of all things at the moment. The experience, class and successes in the recent past speak for themselves. Even Paris Saint-Germain, with all his obligations, is not yet ready to play as a closed team on the level. But Paris has of course a top team and last year indicated that the team can win the Champions League. But many teams can do that. On paper, Real Madrid is still the top favourite, and SPORT1: Carlo Ancelotti’s statement that Bavaria will win the Champions League has surprised many. Ballack: I can understand that he radiates optimism. He is the coach of a top team that always has the ambition to win the Champions League. Whether that always works out is the other question, but he lives it. As a trainer, he has to. He has had great success with various clubs and knows exactly what it means and how to win the Champions League. SPORT1: Is Carlo Ancelotti the right man for a radical change at Bayern Munich, even though he has only ever worked with star teams? He has shown that he can work with different players. In our day and age, he knew exactly what he had to strike for a tone when things got tight (Note. d. Red: Ballack played in the 2009/2010 season for FC Chelsea under Ancelotti). It is important that he positions himself in the Bavarian market and has one year of acclimatisation behind him. It is also not so easy to use the language to find the right words at the right time. He can act even more confidently, because he is a self-confident type and rightly convinced of himself. He has to attack and he should attack, because he has the opportunity to create great things with Bavaria. I don’t know if anyone has managed to win the Champions League with three different clubs. SPORT1: Will Thomas Müller still be on his feet? Ballack: We just had a case with Benedikt Höwedes, who was also an absolute figurehead at FC Schalke 04. All of a sudden it happened very quickly, but this is not comparable to Thomas Müller. He has absolute exceptional abilities and they are not gone overnight. SPORT1: Nevertheless, he is currently often sitting on the bench… Ballack: This is a snapshot, and I think it’s good that Thomas is angry. That’s a good reaction. He is a child from Munich and feels very attached to the association. It is not easy to keep your motivation high enough to compete again and again. Now he is sitting on the bench for a short time, this awakens new energy in him and I also hope that he will loosen up again. Sometimes he can see that the situation seems to be a bit of a burden on him and that he doesn’t move as comfortably on the course as he used to. This is very important for his playing in order to find the rooms where he feels comfortable. It’s a natural process. He stops where he has to run long to be there again and again where it burns. SPORT1: How do you assess the chances of RB Leipzig in the Champions League Ballack: Leipzig is new. This means that they can play freely and have no great expectations. The group is not as strong on paper as some others. As a result, expectations are rightly high again. I trust them to do a lot of things. It will be important to win the home games in front of the Leipzig audience and to impress one or two opponents with the euphoria and the way of playing football. This will be difficult, because they are experienced teams. It is a completely open and good situation for Leipzig. SPORT1: And what about Borussia Dortmund Ballack: Dortmund is an old friend we see again in the preliminary round. The Borussians have played great games and don’t need to hide. For me, Dortmund is absolutely a candidate who will enter the next round. The Dortmund audience and the team are far too home from home. They are also able to win a game abroad. I reckon they’ll make progress.