Sprode the 98-time national player had announced his retirement from professional sports in a lawyer’s letter. But the former "captain" leaves fubball germany completely in the dark about his future. 150 days after his last bundesliga match, ballack called it quits, thus ending all speculation about a possible engagement overseas.
"At the age of 36, i can look back on a long and wonderful time in professional soccer, which i never dared to dream of as a child," explained the long-serving national team captain. The industry did not need much time for benevolent farewells. The creeping end of ballack’s career had actually already begun with his fub injury and the bitter world cup exit in 2010.
"On the pitch, he always radiated a rough dominance, he did everything for success," said national coach joachim low, praising his ex-captain and thus showing himself once again in a rewarding mood. The relationship between the two was considered to be broken after ballack’s unfortunate election.
The "capitano" is now finally history. The 4:1 victory against the 1. FC nurnberg on 5. May of this year with bayer leverkusen was the last of his 267 bundesliga games. The former chief has quietly said goodbye. "It was a privilege to work with first-class coaches and fantastic players. I will certainly miss not playing in front of 80,000 fans or scoring a goal," the saxon wrote in the eight-line statement marking the end of his 17 turbulent professional years. A princely rewarded retreat to second-class status in the USA, qatar or china is no longer on the cards.
In recent months, there have been repeated rumors of his illustrious career being continued abroad. Last talk of a move to australia. "The last few months without playing football have shown me that the time is ripe to quit," said ballack. "I am now looking forward to a new chapter in my life and i thank my family and all the great people who have challenged, challenged, accompanied and supported me. They all played a major role in my success."
Many would like to see ballack, who is often considered uncomfortable and stubborn, remain in the soccer business. DFB president wolfgang niersbach also hopes for a comeback at another level: "it would be great if michael, with his vast experience, could stay in football, in whatever capacity," he said. National team manager oliver bierhoff, with whom ballack played in the german national team, now sees "new opportunities" for the ambitious soccer player.
Former national coach berti vogts thinks similarly. "I hope michael will stay with german fubball – as a manager or coach. I wouldn’t put it past him. It would be a shame if german football lost him. He has done great things for him," he said. World federation president joseph blatter tweeted: "i have just heard of michael ballack’s retirement after a glittering career. All the best for the second half!"
Since leaving the bundesliga, the former playmaker has held back on his professional plans. During the european championships in poland and ukraine, he gained his first journalistic experience as an expert for the US sports channel ESPN. For the ZDF he stood at the supercup game in august in monaco as an expert in front of the TV camera. But for the time being, ballack is now a private citizen.
Through the stations chemnitzer FC, the 1. FC kaiserslautern and bayer leverkusen ballack rose to become a superstar of german soccer. After his championship with kaiserslautern, he went on to win the german championship three times and the cup three times during his time with bayern munchen. He also won the english title with chelsea FC, but missed the big one again in the champions league final in 2008.
In 2002, he had already lost a final match with leverkusen in the konigsklasse, then against real madrid. His return to the bundesliga in 2010 to play for leverkusen became a gross misunderstanding after injury problems and the end of a chequered career.
Ballack has to accept the stigma of being unfinished. This is evidenced by the reactions of sports stars – which go beyond many a phrase from the soccer cosmos. "It hurt me to say goodbye the way things went," said former national handball coach heiner brand. "He gave us great football. I see him as a great footballer. That should remain as a defining impression," said olympic weightlifting champion matthias steiner.
In the national team, ballack was the undisputed "big boss" for many years. He played 98 international matches, was vice world champion in 2002, vice european champion in 2008 and third in the world cup in 2006. From 2004 until the inglorious end of his selection career, he was captain of the DFB team. On 3. March 2010 ballack played his last international match in the 0:1 defeat against argentina.
Ballack missed the 2010 world cup because of a serious injury following a foul by kevin prince boateng. After that he was no longer considered by low. "Even if we didn’t always agree, we always treated each other with mutual respect, as befits a sportsman," said bierhoff at the time of his final farewell.
"The only thing i could have done was to be more consistent with myself and resign sooner," the gorlitz native had said about his involuntary departure from the DFB team. He turned down the farewell game offered by the DFB in the summer of 2011. Ballack said a few months ago that "both sides were not entirely innocent" of the situation at the time.