German international captain Michael Ballack, signed on a free transfer on the 15 th May, 2006, from German champions Bayern München. He is the German international captain, taking over from Oliver Kahn after the appointment of Jürgen Klinsmann as international coach.
The all action midfielder made his Bundesliga début for Chemnitz in 1997, against Karlsruhe . He went on to score 10 goals in 49 appearances. His first Bundesliga goal however, came for FC Kaiserslautern in October 1998, against Hansa Rostock. It was one of 4 goals that he scored in 46 games for Kaiserslautern , en route to winning the 1998 Bundesliga title.
Ballack is renowned for his ability to play in both a defensive and an attacking capacity, even playing as far back as sweeper, where he has been likened to the German great, Franz Beckenbauer. For the national team, Ballack averages almost a goal every other game from 63 caps, a scoring ratio that can compete with some of the worlds best strikers. There is much more to his game than arriving in the box to score goals. He can play 40 yard passes from deep, as well as track back to tackle and protect his defenders. His dribbling can unlock the best of defences, whilst his long range shooting is deadly if he is given space to line a shot up. Perhaps a slightly underrated element of his game is his aerial ability. He scores many of his goals from crosses, free kicks and corners, that is, when he isn’t taking them himself.
It was Otto Rehagel, of Greece Euro 2004 fame, that signed Ballack for FC Kaiserslautern in 1997. He made 16 appearances that season, as Kaiserslautern became Bundesliga champions of 1998, making history as the first newly promoted side to win the German League. German football magazine “kicker,” gave newcomer Ballack a mark of 2.94 for the season, an above average score. The following season, he made 20 appearances as FC Kaiserslautern made it all the way to the quarter finals of the Champions League, only to be knocked out by his future employers, Bayern München. He scored 4 goals during the season.
On 1 July, 1999, Michael Ballack signed for Bayer Leverkusen, for 8m German Marks. It would prove to be a great investment. In three seasons, he scored 27 goals from 79 games, helped them to the Champions League Final of 2001, that ultimately ended in defeat to Real Madrid, as well as being runners up in the Bundesliga twice and losing German Cup Finalists. It was no surprise when Bayern München came knocking.
It took a fee of 6m Euros to prise Ballack away from Leverkusen . At this stage he was Europe ’s top scoring midfield player and he rejected a move to Real Madrid in the process. He played 107 games for Bayern, scoring 44 goals, improving his goal ratio further still. He won the:
- 2003 DFB Cup
- 2003 Bundesliga
- 2004 German League Cup
- 2005 DFB Cup
- 2005 Bundesliga
- 2006 DFB Cup
- 2006 Bundesliga
Despite his multiple domestic titles and being the runner up in the 2002 World Cup, although he was suspended for the final, one thing that has eluded Ballack is European club football success. He moves to Chelsea looking to obtain glory in Europe and perhaps the biggest trophy of them all, the one with big ears, the UEFA Champions League.
He won the UEFA Best Midfielder in Europe award in 2002 and the German Player of the Year in 2002, 2003 and 2005. He will lead Germany into the 2006 World Cup and is the host nation’s only truly world class player at the present time.
He joins Chelsea looking to add an English Premier League Title to his impressive collection of medals, but glory in Europe is the main draw card and one of the primary reasons for Chelsea ’s signing of the German captain. He will face competition from Michael Essien and Lassana Diarra in the upcoming season, but for Ballack, success comes naturally. Herr Ballack certainly chose the right place for that to continue.