No plot against Scolari, says Ballack
Michael Ballack has defended himself against accusations that he was part of a plot to oust Luiz Felipe Scolari, who was sacked as Chelsea manager eight days ago.
The German midfielder has also denied that recent meetings with the club's owner, Roman Abramovich, were out of the ordinary and were where Scolari's fate was decided.
However, Ballack, 32, has revealed that there was a language barrier between the players and their Brazilian former manager, who lasted only seven months at Stamford Bridge, causing problems as the club tried to maintain a challenge for the Premier League title.
When Scolari was sacked, Ballack's name was mentioned as part of a clique of players who had started to agitate for Abramovich to take action as the club's erratic and increasingly poor results meant their attempt to regain the Premier League title was falling away.
But the Germany captain has strongly denied this was the case. He said: "I couldn't believe this, when it was said. I was surprised when I heard about it in Germany last week. When I was asked about him [before he was sacked] I always had a lot of good words about him. This is speculation. This is not true."
Ballack, who joined Chelsea on a free transfer from Bayern Munich three years ago, freely admits to conversations with Abramovich, but vehemently denied there was any link between these and Scolari's dismissal.
He said: "This is normal in a club [to speak with the owner], people speak with each other, even if you don't have the success you want. It has happened before. It's not just this week. It happened with other coaches.
"It's normal he [Abramovich] comes in the dressing room, he speaks with players, staff, everybody. Afterwards, they sack the manager, but these [the players' chats] have nothing to do with this. It's not easy, not a nice situation if they sack somebody. This was in the papers [about my role in his downfall] but definitely not true."
Ballack added: "There is no basis for this. I have a direct line with the owner, that's what I read, that I spoke to the owner. This is definitely not true. I had a good relationship with every coach. I never said this. It's speculation in newspapers. I was disappointed to read this and I couldn't react because I was away [on international duty with Germany] last week.
"German papers were surprised to hear because I have been talking to them about Scolari in a positive way. In recent months I've said good things about the coach. But if you don't get the results, a lot of people speak."
Instead, Ballack has shifted some of the blame on to himself and his team-mates, who are fourth in the Premier League, seven points behind the leaders Manchester United. That gap could grow to 10 if United beat Fulham tomorrow night. He said: "We know as players we didn't play our best, we didn't get the results especially in the league. In football it is always like this. If a team loses and is not playing well, in 90 per cent of cases it's the manager who pays. We as players know it's not just the manager's fault. We are on the pitch. But he pays for it."
Manchester City are ready to go back to Chelsea to try to lure away John Terry this summer, having been given some encouragement during last month's transfer window that a bid for him might be successful.
City had initially dismissed the idea of an approach for the England captain and bracketed Terry among those players for whom bids were never likely to be successful. But despite Terry's insistence yesterday that he would not entertain leaving Stamford Bridge, there appears to be more to the story than meets the eye, with City given the initial impression that Terry was interested in discussing the prospect of a move to Eastlands, which would increase his wages to make him the best-paid player in British football .
It would appear that Chelsea were more unequivocal than Terry' representatives. When City's executive chairman, Garry Cook, spoke to Peter Kenyon, the Chelsea chief executive, about Terry's availability last month, the inquiry was dismissed out of hand.