3 Oct 2012

Ballack retires at 36

6:14 am on 3 October 2012

The former Germany captain Michael Ballack has announced his retirement from football at the age of 36, ending a long career in which he played for Bayern Munich and Chelsea and reached the the 2002 World Cup final.

Ballack, who returned to Bayer Leverkusen in 2010 but was left without a contract after last season, had been linked with a possible move to the United States or Australia.

A strong physical presence in midfield with a powerful shot, Ballack won 98 caps for Germany and four Bundesliga titles. He also played for Chelsea in England, winning domestic titles including the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup.

Ballack got his breakthrough at Kaiserslautern and in 1998 helped them win the Bundesliga title, the first promoted team to do so.

A three-year spell at Bayer Leverkusen ended in 2002 with the team imploding and narrowly failing to win the Bundesliga, losing in the Champions League final to Real Madrid and to Schalke 04 in the German Cup final in a season that earned them nickname "Neverkusen".

Ballack then led Germany to the World Cup final against Brazil but the midfielder was suspended for the match which the South Americans won 2-0.

Ballack moved to Bayern in 2002 winning another three Bundesliga titles and three German Cups before signing for Chelsea where he stayed until 2010.

He again tasted defeat when his team lost the 2008 Champions League final on penalties to Manchester United.

The midfielder then steered Germany to the Euro 2008 final before losing to Spain.

An injury just before the 2010 World Cup meant he missed the tournament in South Africa. Coach Joachim Loew never recalled him again, triggering a war of words in which Ballack accusing him of lying.

His return to Leverkusen was unsuccessful with Ballack sidelined with injuries or benched under former coach Robin Dutt. Club president Wolfgang Holzhaeuser said this year Ballack had failed to deliver in his second spell at the club.