Chelsea have omitted Michael Ballack from their Champions League squad despite the possibility he could be fit to play in the majority of their group matches.
The 31-year-old German international underwent an ankle operation in the summer and as a consequence Chelsea left him out of their 23-man squad for the competition.
That means Ballack cannot play in Europe’s elite competition before the knockout stages begin in February.
The decision is likely to fuel speculation about Ballack’s future at Chelsea. Players who appear in the Champions League become cup-tied and command significantly less in the market. The omission of Balllack means that his fee would remain high should he leave the club in the January transfer window.
News of Ballack’s unavailability came as a surprise to Germany manager, Joachim Löw, who said yesterday that he hoped to have his captain, fit for the European Championship qualifying tie against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on October 13.
Löw said: “[Ballack’s] injury is over now, it’s becoming better from day to day. It’s important that he gets a base physically for the season. His coach at Chelsea must decide when he comes back [but] we hope that he will return to our team for the Euro qualifier against the Republic of Ireland.”
And if that is the case, Ballack would be fit for all of Chelsea’s Champions League matches except September’s home tie against Rosenborg and their trip to Valencia on 3 October.
But Chelsea believe that Ballack’s recovery will take longer than anticipated and they have refused to gamble on his fitness.
A statement from the club read: “We hope Michael’s recovery is as quick as possible.
“We hope Michael returns to full training soon so that he will then be available for the Champions League latter stages.”