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Bayern struggling to find Ballack replacement

Written by: Staff

BERLIN, May 2 (Reuters) Finding a replacement for playmaker Michael Ballack is proving a headache for Bayern Munich, once a favourite destination for the cream of European talent.

Dutch midfielder Mark van Bommel's decision to spurn Bayern's efforts to lure him away from Barcelona to replace the Chelsea-bound Ballack is the latest setback for the German champions.

Bayern executives have been spurned by Werder Bremen's Tim Borowski as well as Hamburg SV's Rafael van der Vaart. They have also put out feelers for Schalke 04's Lincoln and even Hertha Berlin's Yildiray Basturk but without any success.

''We have to make an acquisition or two for the next season,'' said commercial manager Uli Hoeness.

''We need a well-established leader that everyone else, and I mean everyone else, will follow,'' added Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. ''We've got a big vacuum to fill.'' The tough treatment dished out to Ballack in his four years in Bayern has served as a reminder that Munich careers are fraught with risks.

Ballack's agent Michael Becker said recently the Germany captain was still pained by the disrespectful treatment he got from Bayern officials when he lost form in 2004.

Despite winning three Cups and just two victories away from a third league championship in his three years in Munich, Ballack has faced criticism because of Bayern's failure to challenge for Champions League honours.

''Instead of being doused in beer celebrations, Michael Ballack got verbal slaps in the face after winning the German Cup,'' wrote Ralf Koettker, a columnist for Die Welt newspaper. ''It reflects growing fears and scepticism in Munich... In international competition Bayern have become mediocre.'' The disappointing careers many players have had in Munich after being lured there has also not been overlooked.

Bild newspaper published a table showing 19 of their 23 close-season acquisitions since 1999 had been flops.

Tobias Rau was a Germany defender at VfL Wolfsburg when he moved to Munich in 2003 but failed to crack the starting lineup and spent several unhappy years on the bench.

Torsten Frings's career went downhill in Munich after he moved south from Dortmund in 2004. He left a year later.


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