FRANKFURT – Longtime captain Michael Ballack's Germany career is over, the German football federation said Thursday, ending months of speculation about his future.
The 34-year-old midfielder has 98 caps but has not played for Germany in more than a year and missed seven months with an ankle injury, including last year's World Cup in South Africa, where Germany finished third.
Ballack, who had 42 goals in a Germany career that began in April 1999, never won a major title with the national team. He was Germany's captain in 55 games.
There was no immediate reaction from the former Chelsea midfielder, and no quotes from the player in the federation's statement.
Coach Joachim Loew had retained Ballack nominally in place as captain, but left him out of the Germany squad recently despite a strong end to the season.
On Thursday, however, the federation said Ballack won't be part of the squad in future - though it would like him to play one last game as captain in a friendly against Brazil on Aug. 10.
Loew said recent months have brought many young players to the fore who have ''good prospects.''
''In our talks, I had the impression that Michael definitely understands our point of view,'' Loew said. ''So in the interest of everyone, an honest and clear decision is now appropriate.''
The coach lauded Ballack's achievements over nearly a decade with the national team, saying that ''he has an enormous share in the team's great successes since the 2002 World Cup'' - where Ballack helped power Germany to the final.
He missed the 2-0 loss to Brazil in the final because of a yellow card in the semifinal, when he prevented a threatening South Korean counterattack with a deliberate foul. Four years later at home, Germany finished third.
''He marked an era and, as captain, always put himself at the service of the team,'' Loew said.
Loew's young team has all but qualified already for next year's European Championship in Poland and Ukraine. It has seven wins in seven qualifying matches.
Ballack played in the 2008 European Championship final, when Germany lost 1-0 to Spain.
His last game for Germany was in March 2010, a 1-0 loss to Argentina in a friendly.
Ballack's club career included stints with Kaiserslautern, Bayer Leverkusen, Bayer Munich and Chelsea.
When his contract at Chelsea was not extended, Ballack returned to Leverkusen and struggled to make the starting lineup after coming back from the ankle injury. But he finished the season strongly.
The tackle that effectively ended his Germany career came in the FA Cup final and was committed by former Bundesliga player Kevin-Prince Boateng.