Former Germany captain Michael Ballack does not believe there is any “sporting reason” behind Leroy Sane’s omission from the 2018 World Cup squad.
Sane’s hopes of announcing himself as one of the upcoming stars in world football in Russia this summer were dashed by Germany head coach Joachim Low earlier this week after the Manchester City attacker was not named to the title holders’ final 23-man squad for the tournament.
“He’s shown all his qualities and could have been a big influence at the World Cup with his abilities,” Ballack said at a PR event. “I was really looking forward to seeing such a player at this tournament.”
Low explained following Sane’s omission that Leverkusen forward Julian Brandt beat the former Schalke player to the ticket to the World Cup in a “photo finish,” but Ballack said he could also imagine other reasons behind Sane’s absence at the tournament.
“I can’t really see any sporting reasons behind it. Forget it, there is no photo finish for me. The position Julian Brandt plays in, you need a lot of fantasy to believe this. He’s just not on Sane’s level. Sane plays for a bigger club, plays alongside better players.”
Ballack also had his say on former club Chelsea, who have made an unconvincing start to the summer with Antonio Conte’s future still unresolved and significant progress yet to be made in the transfer market.
Roman Abramovich’s long-term commitment to the club has also been questioned after his decision to halt the Stamford Bridge redevelopment project, and Ballack believes the Chelsea hierarchy should be asking themselves what they could do differently.
“It’s not what Chelsea is asking for, running so far behind,” the former Germany international said in the Daily Mail. “Chelsea with its history shouldn’t have different ambitions. You have to think about what happened the last three years.
“Finishing fifth is not good enough for Chelsea, and especially in the last three seasons not qualifying for the Champions League twice.
“It’s a sign, it’s a development with which you have to be careful. You have to question yourself inside Chelsea to see what you have done right and what you have done wrong.
“Even the title last year was achieved by being out of European competition.. It’s achieved by good circumstances. But not qualifying [for the Champions League] now, you should question are you making the right decisions?”
Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois have both called for Chelsea to show ambition in this summer’s transfer market before they commit to new long-term contracts, but Ballack warned that spending alone will not solve the problem.
“It’s not always about the money to be successful it’s also about the strategy,” he added. “They have a really good youth team that beats everybody. They have good young talent which you can work with.
“There is quality there. I have seen them myself there. It’s not always about spending the big money, taking risks, relying on one or two players. Maybe it’s time also to go in a different way for Chelsea.”
ESPN FC’s Chelsea correspondent Liam Twomey contributed to this report
Stephan Uersfeld is the Germany correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @uersfeld.