Michael Ballack has called a halt to his professional football career. The former Germany captain was without a club this season, and said the downtime showed him "the time was right to stop."
Michael Ballack was among the best of his generation, a captain of the German national team who took to the field for his country on 98 occasions. The former Kaiserslautern, Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich and Chelsea star, a free agent this season, announced via his lawyer on Tuesday that he would officially retire.
"Aged 36 I can look back on a long and wonderful time in professional football, the sort I wouldn't have dared to dream of as a child. It was a privilege to work with top class coaches and fantastic team mates," Ballack said in a statement. "I will certainly miss playing or scoring goals in front of 80,000 fans. But the last few months without playing football have shown me that the time is right to stop."
Ballack said he was looking forward to a "new chapter" in his life, also taking time to thank his family and friends for their support over the years.
Born in the border town of Görlitz where Germany meets Poland, Ballack lived his earliest years in former Communist East Germany, but only appeared on the international football scene long after German reunification.
He started out in the youth setup in the eastern city of Chemnitz, before his career took him to Kaiserslautern, Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Chelsea in London and then back to Leverkusen for one last, rather unhappy stint. He could not agree terms with the club on a new contract in the summer.
At club level, he won the Bundesliga four times and the German Cup three times. During his time at Chelsea - Ballack moved there on a free transfer after the 2006 World Cup - he won the English Premiership once and the FA Cup three times. He was one of Germany's most successful, long-serving exports to Britain - spending four years at the club.
A strong, versatile midfielder with a wicked shot, excellent vision, two good feet, and plenty of appetite for the more defensive rough and tumble, Ballack was considered one of the world's best in his prime.
Germany's unlucky number 13
He wore the captain's armband for the German national team for several years and represented his country 98 times. With Germany, Ballack was a World Cup runner up in 2002 and he also had to settle for second in Euro 2008. He captained his country on home soil at the 2006 World Cup, where Germany narrowly lost in a semi-final to Italy. Ballack scored 42 goals for Germany from midfield, putting him in the country's all-time top ten.
An injury meant that he missed the 2010 World Cup, and this heralded - though few predicted it at the time - the end of Ballack's international career, as Germany's new generation of midfield stars began to emerge.
Ballack faced similar troubles on his return to Bayer Leverkusen for a career swansong. Placed effectively in direct competition with club captain Simon Rolfes for the defensive midfield spot, the German giant struggled to cement his place in the side - eventually falling far enough out of favor not to be offered a contract extension.