German legend Michael Ballack is set to retire at the end of this campaign after publicly airing his frustration at the lack of first team opportunities with Bayer Leverkusen. The 35 year old returned to the Bundesliga in 2010 from Chelsea but has struggled to hold down a regular starting role this season and is unused to playing second fiddle. He told Sky Deutschland: “At this moment in time I have little thoughts about continuing with Bayer Leverkusen and extending my outrunning contract. Right now I feel this is my final campaign in the colours of Bayer Leverkusen. I still have the desire to continue my career.”
However, though he wishes to extend his illustrious career for a year or two more it is felt by many – including the German club’s general manager Rudi Völler – that unless Ballack finds a club suitable to his standing he will instead decide to bow out of the game.
Ballack began his career in the lower leagues before moving to FC Kaiserslautern in 1997. There he forged a reputation for being an imperious, arrogant box-to-box midfielder – continuing the teutonic tradition for such a player that started with Beckenbauer and taking over the legacy from Lothar Matthaus. Though he won plenty of silverware he will perhaps unfairly be remembered as an unlucky player – aptly always choosing the number 13 shirt wherever he played – who just missed out on the big occasions. Ballack endured many a heartbreak on the big stage forlornly accepting a losing finalist medal in the World Cup, Euro Championships and twice in the Champion’s League.
He fared better with individual honours winning the German Footballer of the Year award on three occasions and was selected as one of FIFA’s 100 Greatest living Players in 2004.