From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.08 :: Feb. 21, 2009

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FOOTBALL

Little Kaiser

Michael Ballack was thrice crowned German Footballer of the Year and was named by Pele as one of the greatest living footballers of all time, writes Tom Hird.

AP

There are few players on the world stage who can match Michael Ballack when it comes to all-round ability. The big midfielder has everything you could ask for in a modern-day footballer, from his powerful shooting to his ability to pick out a pass and break up the opponents’ play with a tough tackle.

The German made his professional debut in 1995, at the age of 18, when he turned out for Chemnitzer. He was soon dubbed the ‘Little Kaiser’ — a reference to his similarity in style to German midfield great Franz Beckenbauer.

Ballack’s performances attracted so much attention that in 1997 the Gorlitz-born player won a move to Kaiserslautern, which had just been promoted to the German Bundesliga.

He won the title with the team in his first season and by the age of 21 he had become one of the side’s star players, eventually being rewarded with a GBP3.5 million move to title-chaser Bayer Leverkusen.

By the time he moved on again to Bayern Munich in 2002, he had already played in a UEFA Champions League final — although it ended in a Leverkusen loss to Real Madrid — and had won the German Footballer of the Year award.

He had also made his step up to the international stage and played in the World Cup in the Far East in 2002, where Germany finished runner-up to Brazil, with Ballack scoring three goals in the process.

It was at Bayern where he came into prominence as one of the world’s greatest players. He won the Bundesliga in his first season with the Bavarian giant, and went on to win another two before his move to Chelsea.

He was crowned German Footballer of the Year another two times, and was named by Pele as one of the greatest living footballers of all time.

Ballack eventually left the club on a Bosman free transfer in the summer of 2006 following another appearance at the World Cup, this time on home soil.

Ballack has not made the massive impression in the EPL that many people expected, and has had to endure his fair share of criticism since arriving at Chelsea.

His time at the club has not been as successful as he might have hoped and the Barclays English Premier League and UEFA Champions League titles still elude him, having being a runner-up in both competitions with the London club, but he remains a key figure.

He is out of contract in the summer but is reportedly close to securing a new deal with the Stamford Bridge club.

Ballack and his wife Simone were married in the summer of 2008. They have three children, named Louis, Emilio and Jordi.

The German star has had a collection of fast cars, and is known to have previously owned a Porsche 911.

FACTFILE

Name: Michael Ballack

Position: Midfielder

Club: Chelsea

D.O.B.: 26/09/76

Germany caps: 89

Germany goals: 39

Germany debut: April 28, 1999 vs Scotland

Moment to remember

Ballack lit up Euro 2008 with a trademark free-kick against Austria last summer, earning a 1-0 win for Germany and securing its place in the last eight of the tournament.

Moment to forget

Ballack suffered disappointment on several fronts in 2007-2008 as he finished as part of a runner-up team in no fewer than four major competitions. He lost out on the Premier League to Manchester United before being defeated on penalties by the same side in the final of the UEFA Champions League. By that stage his Chelsea side had already been defeated in the Carling Cup final by Tottenham but his misery was compounded when Germany was beaten by Spain in the final of Euro 2008.

© PA Sport, 2009, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited. Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.



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