LONDON -- Chelsea have denied that Germany captain Michael Ballack has been left out of their Champions League squad because he has no future with the London club.
Playmaker Ballack has failed to produce his top form since joining from Bayern Munich last year and has not played for Chelsea since April because of an ankle injury.
"Chelsea Football Club would like to reiterate that Michael Ballack's omission from the UEFA Champions League group phase squad was taken only because of injury," a club statement said.
"There is no other reason for the decision and suggestions to the contrary are unfair on both Michael, who is attempting to get fit as soon as possible and our medical team in whom we have every confidence."
Ballack's exclusion from the squad fuelled speculation that the 30-year-old Germany international might leave Stamford Bridge.
Germany coach Joachim Loew said he was surprised at Chelsea's decision while Franz Beckenabauer suggested that Ballack should never have joined Chelsea.
"Moving to Chelsea was a mistake, I think," Beckenbauer, chairman of Bayern Munich's supervisory board, told Bild newspaper on Thursday.
"At Manchester United his position was free and he would have fitted in perfectly. The same at Real Madrid. At Chelsea, his place was already taken by Frank Lampard -- a top player and a local hero."
If Ballack does recover fitness over the next four months he would be eligible for the later stages of the competition should Chelsea qualify.
Chelsea have been drawn with Spain's Valencia, Schalke 04 of Germany and Norwegians Rosenborg Trondheim in Group B.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press