?Former Bundesliga winner Michael Ballack has called Bayern Munich’s poor start to the season good for the Bundesliga, while heralding Germany’s top flight as a great place for young talent like English star Jadon Sancho to thrive and gain invaluable experience.
Ballack, who spoke exclusively to 90min in conjunction with Enterprise, ?has tipped his former team Chelsea to challenge in the Premier League this season. However, while a rejuvenated Blues side under Maurizio Sarri are just two points off Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, another of Ballack’s old clubs are considered to be in a mini-crisis as they sit in fourth in the Bundesliga, four points behind pace-setters Dortmund.
Bayern – where Ballack spent four seasons, winning three league titles between 2003 and 2006 – have lost twice and drawn twice in the Bundesliga in 2018/19 under Niko Kovac, with reports suggesting that not all the players are behind the new manager.
Ballack admitted that the change of teams at the summit of Germany’s top flight is good for the league, but he insisted no-one at ?Bayern is panicking just yet.
“Yes of course it’s good for the ??Bundesliga because it’s exciting,” he told 90min. “I don’t think the [Bayern] supporters need to panic. I mean they were quite spoiled in the last years, especially in the Bundesliga!
“It’s more an internal matter for the club, you know, which wants to also to win the Champions League. They have to sort out issues with the squad, with the new coach and the new management. These are all themes they are discussing in the media, but it’s an internal problem more than an external one.”
Ballack also suggested that Bayern’s reluctance to spend big in the summer transfer market has cost them a little in the early stages of the season due to injuries (with Corentin Tolisso, Kingsley Coman and Thiago all currently out of action), and suggested that January could be the occasion to strengthen.
“I think it’s become an issue a little bit because of some injuries, which you never know before they happen and they happened a little bit after the transfer window closed,” Ballack continued.
“Of course they made a decision not to invest in a ‘big’ player, because there was this general question with [Arjen] Robben and [Franck] Ribery because of their age.
“They were fantastic players in the past – they are still really good players – but of course with age time will come and it’s already started where you lose a percentage and also you have to bring in the next generation with Coman, [Serge] Gnabry players that are playing in that position and maybe add a new one.
“That was the big discussion they had before the season and they decided not to do it. They didn’t say why, they just did not do it and after if things are not going well of course you have to answer the questions, you don’t have to, but you have to answer the questions internally.
“If they look at the squad, the strength of the squad, they will come to a decision ‘is it good enough, or do we do something in January?'”
Ballack also spoke about the recent wave of young British players seeking success over in Germany, with Jadon Sancho and Reiss Nelson the poster boys for the benefits of moving abroad for game time.
The former midfielder, who also spoke about Chelsea and England star Ruben Loftus-Cheek, compared the two leagues and the opportunities for younger players.
“I don’t think they are particularly watching England for English players. I think they are good players. I think that’s why the scouts picked them,” he said of Sancho and Nelson.
“Young English players are choosing the Bundesliga to get experience at the highest level and maybe not sitting on the bench at a Premier League club.
“I think it’s really important, if you’re young, to play and if they see the chance in Germany, even better for Germany. I think it’s a really good league to get experience in.
“From my perspective it’s tougher to play in the Premier League because it’s quicker, it’s stronger, the referee blows differently. So for young players maybe you don’t have the body and the physical ability at the highest level immediately to perform there. It’s a good choice then to go into a really good league, but where the tempo is not as high, but still a really good level and tactically a good level.”
Ballack added that in particular ?Dortmund’s near-unique standing makes it the perfect petri dish for young talent like 18-year-old Sancho – who has four goals and six assists in 10 appearances this season – to develop.
“For him it’s perfect to play for a club like Borussia Dortmund which is playing in the Champions League, which has the pressure to win the league – it is a big club with ambitions. There is another club who always has more pressure,” Ballack claimed, before comparing it to his own formative years at one of Germany’s next best clubs.
“If I compare for me at my time it’s like Bayer Leverkusen. It’s not Bayern Munich, but it was the second strongest club at the time.
“It’s a perfect environment for a young player to be around good players, playing Champions League and getting time on the pitch.”
Michael Ballack is working with UEFA Europa League partner Enterprise Rent-A-Car on their legendary Journeys campaign. To discover more and to enjoy special rates across Europe, visit www.enterprise.co.uk