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Never mind the Ballacks

Published: Monday 28 November 2005, 20.00CET
Michael Ballack's recent absence through injury has given FC Bayern München the chance to prove that they can survive - and thrive - without him.
by Andreas Alf
from Munich

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Published: Monday 28 November 2005, 20.00CET

Never mind the Ballacks

Michael Ballack's recent absence through injury has given FC Bayern München the chance to prove that they can survive - and thrive - without him.
A 4-0 UEFA Champions League win against SK Rapid Wien gave FC Bayern München the chance to prove there is more to Felix Magath's side than Michael Ballack.

Transfer rumours
With the Germany captain and midfield maestro injured, the Bundesliga champions made it clear to the world that - even if there is some truth to the rumours that Ballack is bound for Real Madrid CF or Manchester United FC - Bayern have enough strength to thrive without their star player.

Deisler stars
After years hampered by depressive illness, Sebastian Deisler, 25, underlined his return to form with the opening goal against Rapid on Matchday 5 - the entrée to a sumptuous display. "His opening goal was brilliant and his overall performance was great," said a satisfied Magath.

Kahn impressed
Goalkeeper Oliver Kahn was just as fulsome in his praise of 'Basti Fantasti'. "Everybody could see he is a different person on the pitch compared to six months ago," he said. "Sebastian is suddenly full of joy and self-confidence. I am convinced we can expect even bigger things from him in the future."

Different style
Quick and enterprising, as opposed to the more leisurely style favoured by Ballack, there is little doubt Bayern are a different team with Deisler in a more pivotal role, but with Ballack's understudy Ali Karimi and Bastian Schweinsteiger also playing well, the club are spoiled for choice. Minus Ballack, they consolidated their six-point Bundesliga lead with a 2-1 win against 1. FSV Mainz 05 on Saturday.

Cameo roles
Iranian international Karimi made his mark against Rapid, scoring Bayern's second from a Schweinsteiger corner, and the young German international made a further contribution as he set up a goal for Roy Makaay before Martin Demichelis created the Dutchman's second of the night.

Bullish Magath
While some Bayern fans worry about life after Ballack, Magath simply believes his side are potential European champions. "We can deal with every top team in Europe," boasted the coach. "I think we are ready to go for the trophy. But you always need some luck, too."

Unusual hypothesis
If victory against Rapid, who according to coach Josef Hickersberger are "not on the same level as the top European clubs", is no great feat, it at least allowed Bayern to show that they might be even more dangerous without their best player.

Getting better
Improved since last year with the form of Demichelis and Valérien Ismaël in defence, it could be that Bayern are in the final stages of becoming world-beaters. Perhaps the question is not whether Bayern can cope without Ballack, but rather whether Ballack can win anything without Bayern.

Food for thought
Either way, watching last week's game from the sidelines as he nursed his muscle injury, Ballack would doubtless have had much to ponder.

Last updated: 29/11/05 0.05CET

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