Michael Ballack: We Hardly Knew Ye

Michael Ballack Chelsea 2009/10

When Chelsea signed Michael Ballack as a free agent in the summer of 2006, it was regarded as a coup. With both Manchester United and both Milan clubs apparently tracking the dynamic German Midfielder, reports actually indicated a fear for Lampard’s presence in the Chelsea midfield.

It is now the end of Ballack’s tenure at Chelsea and many fans regard his exit as the same as those of Deco and Juliano Belletti, faithful servants but not to be missed. The Ballack Chelsea had signed never showed up in Chelsea blue. During his time at Bayer and Bayern Michael Ballack was an attacking midfielder. He had an excellent ability to arrive late into the box and his heading ability was without peer in this role. Ballack had a ferocious shot with either foot , he had an aggressive attitude to the game and was made German captain. All looked positive for his move to English football.

Problems began with one player, Frank Lampard. All of those virtues above were true also of Frank, he was Chelsea’s attacking midfielder and doing a great job of it too. Ballack was not to replace Frank and in the end had to settle for a more passive role in the centre of midfield. It is evident now but not then that this simply didn’t work Ballack’s physicality was more appropriate in taking on Defensive midfielders or central defenders it was not nearly effective against lithe and skilful central players. Ballack often found himself not being able to impose himself on the game and as time wore on his usefulness declined. His goalscoring record, unsurprisingly, dropped dramatically; he had 110 goals in 365 games in Germany (including those early formative years) but only 26 in 165 in England, this during the so-called ‘prime’ of his career.

This is not to say that Ballack had ‘lost it’ far from it, he was still scoring regularly for Germany and his stock was never higher in his homeland. News of his recent injury was cause for news-flashes in Germany as there was a palpable sense of dismay. Ballack was simply played out of position for his entire tenure at Chelsea, placed in either a central midfield or defensive midfield role that his skills never suited. The defining game of his time at Chelsea would be the Champions League match against Inter at Stamford Bridge, it was Ballack’s role to prove both some defensive work and help out in the attack. Chelsea lost the midfield battle in that game as Esteban Cambiasso controlled the midfield with help from Thiago Motta, Ballack constantly lost the ball when in possession and couldn’t prevent Wesley Sneijder from having a great game. Even with the game still in the balance Ballack was taken off for a far-from-fit Joe Cole. Having been in the stands that game there was not a single complaint from the Chelsea faithful.

Michael Ballack enjoyed some success at Chelsea with 3 FA Cup trophies, this year’s Premier League trophy and a League Cup. However the elusive Champions League trophy and Germany’s defeat to spain in Euro 2008 will leave several ‘what-if’ moments for this period of his career.

EDIT – As some are intimating Ballack is still under contract with Chelsea until 31st of this month. Ballack himself has indicated he will want to remain at Chelsea . Some indicate that Chelsea do not want to retain him . In either instance this piece is a reflection on how he has played so far under the assumption he will move on.

10 thoughts on “Michael Ballack: We Hardly Knew Ye”

  1. You must be either very well informed or stupid – as there is no confirmation that Ballack is leaving Chelsea. Hopefully he will stay as he is worth four greedy Joe Coles.

  2. Being played out of position and having him play second fiddle to Lampard was coaches’ fault not Ballack’s. His fault was choosing Chelsea without a clearly defined role and power hierarchy : He was imperious during Avram Grant’s reign when Lampard was injured.
    And the Inter Milan match that you cite….Chelse looked still the better side while he was there : They thoroughly lost it,and,not surprisingly,were scored against after he left…when the team was losing, the spectators would be praying for any goal from anywhere…and someone had to be replaced (never Lampard)….the fact that he was replaced by Joe Cole (another crowd favourite) would neutralise any misgivings the people would have about the substitution…

  3. Ballack gets some of the blame for choosing the fattest pay packet, even though Chelsea had a player in the same position who was of comparable ability and considered “undroppable” by the fans and media.

  4. Can you use your crystal ball to see if Torres is going to Chelsea and Joe Cole is going to ManU too or are you friends with Harry Harris from ESPNsoccernet?

  5. How about when Lamps got injured and Ballack led Chelsea to the CL final??? he stepped up for the team when most needed. Even the final against ManUre he was the best player.

  6. Were in the world do you exactly get your facts from? When did Ballack leave Chelsea? For all we know Chelsea has offered Ballack a year extension on the contract, now whether he has signed it or not is unknown.

    So it would be a great help for all of us if you can provide us with a LEGITIMATE link that reports Ballack’s exit from Chelsea.

  7. Ballack was a great signing for chelsea no one really saw what he brought to the team, he might not have been prolific goal scoring wise but he was brilliant defensively every game we lost was when ballack was injured or taken off , I do feel he should leave chelsea or we should retain him and make him a coach of our youth or reserve team as his a grea leader.

  8. Eh. he still may re-sign….if he does, he will have another solid year

    If he doesn’t, he can be replaced

  9. Extensions to contracts are usually signed months or years in advance to make sure there is no chance of a valued playing leaving the club.

    If you look at guys like Ronaldo or Messi they are contracted for several years and they will be given extensions years before their contract is up. It’s how it works when you want to keep players.

    If somebody waits a few weeks till their contract is up without signing anything then that isn’t usually a good sign.

  10. A very thorough assessment and I concur with the departure of Ballack. A blind man on a galloping horse could have seen that one coming – if Chelsea had wanted to keep him (and Joe for that matter) they’d have been offered contracts well before the world cup.
    I must say to ‘VIzzy’ that I was at the Chelsea vs Inter Milan exit at the Bridge and I wholeheartedly agree with Mr McQuade. Ballack was the cause of too much inconsistency and loss of fluency in our midfield that night. You might also recall that the only player who ‘turned up’ that night went off with Ballack – namely Yuri Zhirkov, that’s what resulted in Inter’s goal.

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