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10.26.2005

Michael still undecided

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Manchester United will discover at the end of next month whether they have any chance of signing Michael Ballack from Bayern Munich.

Sir Alex Ferguson is believed to have placed Ballack on his hit-list as he looks to find a replacement for Roy Keane, who has stated this season will be his last at Old Trafford.

Ballack has long been viewed as one of the most effective central midfielders in Europe and, with his contract due to expire next summer, Ferguson knows he could land the 29-year-old on a free transfer.

Bayern are also acutely of the fact, which is why they want a firm decision on where Ballack sees his future before the transfer window opens in January.

Ballack's agent insists the midfielder has not made a final decision, but reports in recent days have suggested that Ballack has already made up his mind to leave the Bundesliga giants, and he is biding his time in an effort to drum up as much interest as possible from Europe's top clubs ahead of the winter transfer window.

Bayern president Franz Beckenbauer and chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge have both spoken in the press about the clubs that could potentially interest Ballack, but the midfielder's representative Michael Becker believes his client's departure from the biggest club in Germany is not certain.

"To be honest he is still completely undecided, and that is why he asked for a few more weeks to come to his decision," Becker said.

"We sat down and discussed things with Bayern over lunch the day after the Juventus game and Michael said he needed some time to think. He asked whether it would be okay if he let Bayern know before the end of November and they said that was okay.

"He has always said that his goal is to win the Champions League, and that will be essential to his decision."

The Germany captain will be free to speak to other clubs from January 1, and Beckenbauer stoked the speculation that he could be set to leave by admitting in Sport Bild on Wednesday: "I can understand him not being over the moon at the chance to stay with Bayern."

However he warned him against a move to Serie A, comparing the dwindling crowd figures in Italy with the lower leagues in Germany.

"It's like the fourth division here in Germany with often just seven, eight or nine thousand fans," he said.

"I'm not sure it would be any fun there."

When asked to pick out the best potential destination for Ballack outside Germany, Beckenbauer went on to say: "I'd probably say yes to Real Madrid.

"They stand above all others in terms of legend. They're the ambition of everyone and it was the same in my time. But Michael must know where his own future lies."

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