Michael Ballack (born 26 September 1976 in Görlitz) is the captain of the German national football team. He is one of the best midfielders in Europe and currently plays in the English Premier League for Chelsea. His scoring prowess is well-known and he is among the top goal scorers in the history of the German national team.
Ballack has worn the number 13 shirt for every team he has played for except when he was at FC Kaiserslautern. His numerous accolades include being selected as one of FIFA’s 100 Greatest Living Players, the UEFA Club Midfielder of the Year in 2002 and the German Footballer of the Year award in 2002, 2003 and 2005, behind only Franz Beckenbauer who has won 4.
Ballack began his career as a youth at Chemnitzer FC and made his professional debut in 1995. Although the team was relegated in his first season, his performances in the following season led to a transfer to Kaiserslautern in 1997. He won the Bundesliga in his first season at the club, his first major honour. He became a first team regular in 1998–99 season and also earned his first national cap for Germany. He moved to Bayer Leverkusen for €4.1 million in 1999.
The 2002 season saw him win a series of runners-up medals: Bayer Leverkusen finished second in the Bundesliga, German Cup, UEFA Champions League and Germany lost to Brazil in the 2002 World Cup Final. It earned him the reputation of being the perpetual “almost man”, despite the numerous titles he has won since then.
A €12.9 million move to Bayern Munich led to further honours: the team won the Bundesliga and German Cup double in 2003, 2005 and 2006. Ballack had become a prolific goalscorer from midfield, scoring 58 goals for Bayern Munich between 2002 and 2006.
He joined Premier League side Chelsea in mid-2006 and won his first English honours, the FA Cup and Football League Cup, in his first season at the club. Injury ruled him out for much of 2007 but he returned the following season, helping Chelsea reach their first ever Champions League Final.
Internationally, Ballack has played in the European Championships in 2000, 2004 and 2008, and the FIFA World Cup in 2002 and 2006. Jürgen Klinsmann appointed him captain of the national team in 2004. He captained his country in the Euro 2008 Final but the team finished runners-up.
He was cruelly ruled out of the 2010 World Cup just a month before the tournament when he was injured by an ill-timed tackle in Chelsea’s FA Cup Final.