Ballack hoping to be back early next year

BERLIN - Injured Germany captain Michael Ballack is aiming to be back early next year after two injuries which have kept him out for most of the current season as well as the World Cup in South Africa.

The Bayer Leverkusen midfielder, who will also need to fight for his place on the Germany team that clinched third spot at the World Cup in July without him, is currently on crutches and recovering from a broken shinbone and a torn ligament.

"My aim is the second part of the season. It is then that I want to be back on the pitch and help the boys," he told his team's magazine which appeared on Tuesday.

The 34-year-old was initially expected to return in late October after fracturing his shinbone on September 11 in their 2-2 draw with Hanover 96.

But further medical tests showed he would need more time.

Ballack, who missed the World Cup and has not played for his country since injuring his ankle in the FA Cup final while at Chelsea in May, joined his former club this season after a four-year spell in England.

Ballack was not recalled for the first batch of Euro 2012 qualifiers due to a lack of match practice from his injury in May that kept him out for three months.

His fractured shinbone also sidelined him from Germany's Group A qualifiers against Turkey and Kazakhstan earlier this month, putting his hopes of adding to his 98 international caps on hold.