Chelsea midfielder in injury heartbreak

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Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel has been ruled out for the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery.

The operation was necessary after he suffered an injury in a tangle with Bolton's Kevin Davies last month and subsequently led to Mikel's early substitution at Tottenham the following match. Mikel's absence will allow Michael Ballack to continue as holding midfielder, although the Germany captain's future at Chelsea has come under scrutiny.

Ballack, whose contract expires at the end of the season, has confirmed talks are set to take place with Chelsea in the summer.

He told Germany's WDR radio: "After the season, we are definitely going to hold talks with the (Chelsea) decision-makers and then we will see where things go from there. My primary aim is to stay in the Premier League."

The 33-year-old has been linked with a move back to the Bundesliga, with Schalke emerging as a surprise candidate to sign him.

Ballack is more concerned with helping Germany to World Cup glory after a provisional squad of 27 was announced by national team coach Joachim Low yesterday.

"We, like many other nations, want to win the World Cup," said Ballack. "We have qualified with good performances and we will be self-confident.

"We may have had a few dips in form in recent months, but we will prepare ourselves well."

Meanwhile, Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba has been voted Chelsea's player of the year by the club's fans, in recognition of his 33-goal haul so far this term.

The 32-year-old said: "When I came here it wasn't easy for me. I made a lot of mistakes and they always tried to help me. My only desire was to love this club and win a lot of trophies.

"This is the happiest I have ever been and I want this moment to continue for years and years."

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