Ballack still battling

01 March 2009 01:46
Steffen Freund says Michael Ballack is still struggling to fit into the ranks at Chelsea. The former Germany and Tottenham player told Goals on Sunday he feels compatriot Ballack is performing below-par despite spending nearly three years at Stamford Bridge. Freund, who started 92 league games for Spurs, said that view is shared by many people in Germany but believes Ballack was right to leave Bayern Munich on a free transfer in May 2006. "He's not the same as when he played for Bayern Munich," said Freund. "People are a little bit negative about him. Of course, he has picked up a few injuries and it's not easy to adapt to the tempo in the Premier League. "He was the leader at Bayern Munich - that may be why there is a difference. I think it is a step up at Chelsea, which is why for me it was the right thing for him to go to Chelsea because it is a massive club with fantastic players of individual class but he will have to improve. "It was the same in the German national team - he was the skipper. At Chelsea he has Frank Lampard on his side, who has been one of the leaders for years now already; that's why it is not easy to play in that top XI and to be the same as at Bayern Munich." Ballack was part of the side that secured a 2-1 home victory over Wigan on Saturday, flicking on the ball for Lampard to head in a last-gasp winner but Freund felt the goal should have been disallowed as the England midfielder nudged Mario Melchiot in the back before nodding in. "In Germany that is a free-kick definitely, but in England when the ball is free in the 18-yard box in a 50-50 situation like that a goal's usually given." Freund did not score for Spurs in the League, FA Cup or League Cup but during an impressive career won the Bundesliga twice, the 1997 Champions League final with Borussia Dortmund and, of course, Euro 96 in England with Germany. "I scored nine goals in the Bundesliga - fantastic goals - but when I came over to England I couldn't score any more," he said. "The supporters always asked me what would I do if I scored and I'd say let's score first and then we'll see." Reflecting on Germany's Euro '96 semi-final against England, Freund - who has 'Three Lions' as his telephone ringtone - said: "I think it was the best game of the European Championship. "There were a lot of chances and then after 119 minutes I picked up my cruciate ligament injury, which was a bad moment for me. "I didn't know at that moment that I couldn't play in the final because we won the penalties and although my knee was a little bit big I thought it might be ok but a doctor came over from Munich and said the cruciate ligament had gone." Speaking ahead of Sunday's Carling Cup clash between Tottenham and Manchester United, Freund added: "It's fantastic for me to go to Wembley again today to see the new stadium; Wembley is special, the best stadium in football. "It holds fantastic memories for me too, winning the Worthington Cup with Spurs, then to win Euro 96 with Germany and from that moment on I've said always that there is a special atmosphere. "That's why I like the English people and the English mentality; they enjoy football and support their club forever; they stay behind and there is always a fantastic party in the stadium."

Source: SKY_Sports