English Premiership

Ballack hails Hiddink

2009-03-31 16:12
Michael Ballack pleased (File)

Cardiff - Michael Ballack has praised Guus Hiddink for overhauling the lax regime that characterised Luiz Felipe Scolari's time in charge of Chelsea, according to Germany coach Joachim Loew.

Loew, who is set to field Ballack in midfield alongside Thomas Hitzlsperger in Germany's World Cup qualifier at Wales on Wednesday, said on Tuesday that the Germany captain was again enjoying life in the Premier League following Hiddink's arrival in February.

Scolari arrived as a former World Cup winner and following a lauded spell in charge of Portugal, but his tenure at Chelsea lasted just seven months and was tarnished by reports of senior players questioning his tactics and lightweight training methods.

"Ballack has told me that Hiddink has reintroduced professional and more structured things into the dressing room," Loew said. "Guus Hiddink is the sort of coach who can give the finishing touches to any player and that has to be a good thing."

The change seems to have paid off, with Hiddink's perfect Premier League record only coming to an end with last week's 1-0 loss at Tottenham.

Hiddink has lifted Chelsea even while carrying on as manager of the Russia national side he guided to the semifinals of last year's European Championship.

He has said that he will not quit Russia until at least the end of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, but that has not stopped British newspapers from continually speculating on his future.

Loew suggested that Hiddink could continue combining his two roles, despite only being contracted to Chelsea until the end of the season.

"It is a double load he has, but one he seems quite happy assuming," Loew said.

Ballack would already appear to have most of what Loew calls "the finishing touches" following a career in which he has won four German league titles and twice reached the Champions League final, but Hiddink's arrival has coincided with arguably his best form so far this season.

"(Ballack) is very experienced and he's achieved so much in his career, I can only benefit from playing alongside him," Hitzlsperger said. "I'm very aware when I play with him that I try to speak with him a lot."

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