Leverkusen′s light is fading | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 16.04.2012
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Leverkusen's light is fading

It's starting to become a running joke in the Bundesliga. Bayer Leverkusen are developing into the perennial chokers, always finishing their season poorly. Michael Ballack's plight is symbolic for the current slump.

Bayer Leverkusen captain Simon Rolfes summed it up well after his club's 3-all draw against struggling Hertha Berlin.

"We had the game totally under control after taking a 2-nil lead," Rolfes told reporters after the match. "It's annoying that we let them back into it."

With their most recent draw at home, Leverkusen have now won only one of their last eight matches. The solitary victory came against the Bundesliga's worst team, Kaiserslautern.

Leverkusen Coach Sascha Lewandowski directs players from the sideline

New coach Sascha Lewandowski hopes to turn the club's fortunes around

The team from the Rhineland are now completely out of contention for next season's Champions League.

They're currently in sixth, and thus still in the hunt for a Europa League spot. But for a team that finished second last year, and who a month ago were playing against Barcelona, this season is a flop.

Ballack's woes

No one is more representative of Leverkusen's decline than former Germany captain Michael Ballack. The 35 year old veteran started the season as one of the club's biggest trump cards, but has recently only been making headlines off the pitch.

The zenith of the media attention came last month as rumours started to circulate about his future. Michael Becker, Ballack's agent, told the media that he was "certain" Ballack would head to the US after his Leverkusen contract ended this summer. To add to the confusion, Ballack then told German newspaper "Bild" that nothing had yet been decided.

Michael Ballack, sits on the ground, during a Bundesliga match.

Injuries have plagued Ballack again this season - as they did in 2011

After being out injured for over two months and then returning for one game, Ballack is now back on the sidelines with a calf injury. His absence doesn't seem to bother team management too much, even though his experience under pressure could well have helped Leverkusen against Berlin.

When asked after the game by DW whether Ballack could have helped Leverkusen in the final stages of the game as Berlin came storming back, Leverkusen's new coach Sascha Lewandowski said: "That's all just hypothetical really. We had enough quality players on the field today, I don't think that's the issue."

History against them

Nevertheless, keeping a cool head in late April should probably start getting discussed at Leverkusen. Aside from a strong run home last season, the team has consistently had worse results in the second half of their season in all recent years.

Leverkusen Sports Director Rudi Völler smiles for the cameras before a Bundesliga match.

Leverkusen legend Rudi Völler still believes in Europe next season

Leverkusen's most catastrophic finish in recent times came at the end of 2009/2010 where, after breaking Bayern Munich's record for the most consecutive league games without a loss, the club lost the plot completely, ending their campaign in fourth and missing out on Champions League qualification.

Sports Director Rudi Völler is still not prepared to admit defeat this season.

"We are still in the race, there are three games to go," the ex-national player and coach told German broadcaster ARD. "If we'd won today it would have been a big step towards Europe. Now, we will just have to wait a bit longer."

If they don't react soon, he may just well be waiting until 2013.

Author: André Leslie
Editor: Jefferson Chase

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