Veteran captain Michael Ballack has a future in the Germany team, but only if he regains his fitness, coach Joachim Loew reiterated in an interview published on Sunday.
"I want to develop the team further - and I would like to do it with Michael," Loew told the Bild am Sonntag paper.
"It is planned this way. But he must reach his old form. I believe he can achieve that, he still has great potential. Of course physical fitness is very important at his age. But Michael is ambitious."
Ballack, who turns 34 on September 26, missed the recent World Cup over an ankle injury. The midfielder is back in action at his new club Bayer Leverkusen but yet to reach full fitness and was not invited by Loew for Germany's first two Euro 2012 qualifiers.
"Michael has not yet reached the shape in which he can help us," Loew said.
Loew said that Germany nowadays plays fast attacking one-touch football for which he needs fit players. In addition, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira played well in Ballack's role at the World Cup. Loew announced last week that the Ballack, who has scored 42 goals in 98 caps, will remain captain when he can play and that Philipp Lahm will be the skipper, like at the World Cup and the first two Euro qualifiers, when Ballack is not with the team. Ballack has remained silent over the issue and Loew did not want to say whether he could imagine a scenario in which the formerly undisputed team leader Ballack would be invited but not a starter.
"This has to be decided at the time. There are still four weeks until the next (Euro qualifier) double header. It was no issue when I met with Michael (last week)," Loew said.