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Old 10-02-2012, 06:10 PM   #2646
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Default Re: Football Zone

Germany great Ballack confirms retirement

By Ryland James (AFP)

BERLIN — Former Germany captain Michael Ballack announced his retirement on Tuesday bringing the curtain down on a stellar career.

Having turned 36 at the end of last month, Ballack has been without a team after his two-year deal at Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen expired in June.

Since leaving Leverkusen, Ballack had been reported to be negotiating with clubs in north America's MSL and Australia's A-League, but has decided to hang up his boots.

"At 36 years of age, I can look back on a long and wonderful time in professional football, which I could never have dreamed of as a child," he said in a statement.

"It was a privilege to have worked with world-class coaches and fantastic players.

"Of course, I will miss playing playing or scoring a goal in front of 80,000 fans, but the last few months without football have shown me that it is time to stop.

"I am looking forward to a new chapter in my life and thank my family and all the awesome people who have helped and supported me. They are all a big part of my success."

Ballack made the last of his 98 appearances for Germany when he captained them during their friendly defeat against Argentina in March 2010 having made his national debut back in April 1999 against Scotland.

An ankle injury playing for Chelsea in the FA Cup final in May 2010, following a brutal tackle from Portsmouth's Kevin Prince-Boateng, ruled him out of the South Africa World Cup where he lost the German captaincy to Philipp Lahm.

Having played for Kaiserslautern, Leverkusen and Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, Ballack spent four years at Stamford Bridge with Chelsea between 2006 and 2010.

Ballack is the veteran of two World Cups having been suspended for the 2002 final, when Germany lost 2-0 to Brazil in Japan, before leading the Germans to third at the 2006 tournament they hosted.

After a public spat with Germany coach Joachim Loew in October 2008, when Ballack accused him of not showing his senior players enough loyalty, their relationship deteriorated.

After back-to-back injuries blighted Ballack's first season back with Bayer Leverkusen in the 2010/2011 season, Loew told him he was no longer part of his plans and had no future in the national team.

Loew then offered Ballack an honorary appearance in Germany's friendly victory over Brazil in August 2011, which was refused, and Ballack later appeared for American broadcaster ESPN as a pundit at this June's Euro 2012.

"He has made an outstanding contribution to the national team over many years, many of us remember his efforts in the 2002 World Cup," said German Football Federation (DFB) president Wolfgang Niersbach.

"It would be nice if Michael remains, with his vast experience, in football in whatever capacity."

After hearing of Ballack's retirement, Loew was generous in his praise of his former captain, but the midfielder will always be known in Germany as the player who was destined to finish second.

In 2002, he was part of the Leverkusen team which came second on three occasions -- losing in the German Cup and Champions League finals while finishing second in the Bundesliga.

He was then suspended for the 2002 World Cup final, which Germany lost to Brazil in Japan, after picking up a yellow card and scoring the winning goal in the semi-final victory over South Korea.

Ballack was again left as a runner-up in 2008 when he wept openly after losing the Champions League final at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on penalties, then led Germany when they lost the Euro 2008 final to Spain.
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