Name: Michael Ballack
Date of Birth: 26/09/1976
Height: 6′ 2″ (188cm)
Weight: 14st 0lbs (89.0kg)
Clubs: Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Kaiserslautern
The ultimate professional, Michael Ballack has begun life under Carlo Ancelotti in fine fettle.
Having agreed a one-year extension to his contract earlier in the year, Ballack has been Carlo Ancelotti’s preferred choice in central midfield where his seniority and experience contributed to a perfect Premier League start, with goals against Sunderland, Burnley and Spurs.
His eye for goal early in the season contrasted with the two previous. It took until mid-January in 2008/09 for the Germany captain to find the scoresheet, whilein 2007/08 he did not feature at all until December due to an ankle injury.
Last season was also featured injury problems, this time surgery was required on both feet in October that kept Michael out for around five weeks.
When he finally did find the net, an equaliser away at Southend in the FA Cup, more did follow, notably a brace against Ipswich in the same competition, one of which was a superb bending free-kick, only eclipsed by Frank Lampard’s later effort that day.
It had been an ankle operation before the climax to the 2006/07 season denied Michael any action in the first half of 2007/08, but after Christmas he made his mark as one of Chelsea’s most reliable performers.
After a Carling Cup return against Liverpool, important goals followed in quick succession against Aston Villa and Fulham as Ballack, in the absence of others, led the team through a difficult January period back into the title race.
He popped up again in March with a Goal of the Season contender at West Ham, before demonstrating his steely nerve with two goals against Manchester United in April, including an 86th minute penalty.
A month later the midfielder faced Edwin van der Sar again in Moscow, and produced the same result with a well struck spot-kick, only to see the Dutchman later save Nicolas Anelka’s effort.
With nine goals in just 30 appearances, Ballack’s second season at Stamford Bridge was a success, after a campaign of acclimatisation following his 2006 arrival.
He missed out on a place in the 2007 FA Cup winning side due to his ankle injury but he had made a mark in Chelsea’s earlier triumphant Carling Cup Final, slipping the perfect pass through for Didier Drogba’s important equaliser against Arsenal in Cardiff.
Another high point was the extra-time FA Cup semi-final winner against Blackburn that sent Chelsea to Wembley and although Michael’s seven goals from midfield was lower than his seasonal average, his overall contribution frequently drew commendation from José Mourinho.
Ballack signed on at Stamford Bridge on a free transfer prior to the 2006 World Cup, held in his homeland. By the end of that summer, the club also added the purchases of Andriy Shevchenko and Ashley Cole, while Ballack had led his side to the semi-finals, demonstrating to Chelsea fans his vision, technique and supreme passing.
When Michael had decided to leave Bayern Munich, he could have taken his pick from Europe’s finest clubs. However the English Premier League had long appealed.
Michael was born in the pre-reunification East Germany where he started his professional career at Karl-Marx-Stadt FC, the club changing name to Chemnitz FC after the fall of the Eastern Bloc.
He became an Under 21 international whilst there before moving up the ladder to Bundesliga club Kaiserslautern in 1997.
He made 16 appearances in an historic first season – his new club becoming the first newly-promoted outfit to win the German league.
Aged 22, Michael became a full international and soon made a move to Bayer Leverkusen where his career truly began to take off, culminating in the 2002 Champions League Final.
Bayer lost out to Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid but the team’s inspiration in midfield won the first of three German Player of the Year awards.
His country’s biggest club, Bayern, came calling that summer and Michael moved for £12.9m, winning his second Bundesliga winners’ medal in his first season in Bavaria.
He then scored twice in the German Cup Final to make it a double success.
That double triumph was repeated two seasons later and then again the next year, his last one in Germany.
As tradition demands for German internationals, Michael has been a part of strong World Cup campaigns.
It was his two goals that took his team through the quarter- and semi-final stages at the Japan/South Korea 2002 event but a booking in the semi, earned selflessly attempting to preserve the lead, meant heartbreak as he was forced to sit out the Final versus Brazil.
In Euro 2008, the Germans were again strong, Michael’s free-kick winner over Austria taking them out of the group stage. He was then outstanding in a quarter-final victory over Portugal, his goal the winner as Luiz Felipe Scolari suffered defeat at this stage for the first time. Only the quality of Spain in the Final prevented international silverware.
A dangerous header of a ball and comfortable shooting and passing with either foot, Michael arrived at Chelsea with a goal-scoring record pushing one in every two games for both club and country, a ratio he has never sustained in England, but he remains an integral part of the squad, both on and off the field.