Michael Ballack’s Germany International Career Is Over, Signals Loew
Michael Ballack has suffered several disappointments in his career – but though being informed his time in the Germany squad is effectively over will have hurt, even he cannot be surprised.
The writing has been on the wall for Ballack for several months and Joachim Loew’s reluctance to bring him back even when fit was a clear signal he was no longer required.
Football can be a cruel sport but it is also a simple one. Ageing, injury prone players are replaced by younger, fitter athletes and that is exactly what happened to Ballack.
Had he not been injured before the World Cup, who knows if he would have retained his place? Certainly it would have been a bold move to drop him but with Germany adopting a more youthful, faster style of play it is equally hard to see how he would have continued to truly fit in.
Perhaps rather than fading away in the trikot of the DFB-Elf, it is better to make the cut as quick and clean as possible.
A last farewell in a friendly against Brazil, which would be his 99th cap, would be a fitting end to a magnificent career.
As while Ballack is sometimes the butt of runners-up jokes, the truth is he is a winner and deserves to be remembered as such.
He suffered heartbreak with the rest of the classic 2002 Bayer Vizekusen team which finished second in three competitions but he had already lifted the Deutsche Meisterschaft in a fairytale story with Kaiserslautern four years previously.
And though the summer of 2002 brought further hurt with a World Cup final missed due to suspension, it is universally acknowledged that Ballack and Oli Kahn, almost alone, carried Germany to that final.
His time with Bayern Munich saw him collect domestic trophy after trophy and his spell at Chelsea was not without winners medals either.
It was only the summer of 2008 which again provided dark clouds but Ballack cannot be blamed for John Terry’s Champions League penalty slip in Moscow, nor for the fact he was patently unfit when Germany took on Spain in the final of Euro 2008.
Indeed, playing through the pain barrier in that game summed up his desire to everything for the team, just as he had done in the World Cup of 2006.
That summer Ballack was quieter than 2002 but his efficiency on the ball in a deeper role, combined with a steely determination, saw him lead his country on an unexpected, but glorious, sommermärchen to within an ace of another World Cup final.
Even at the peak of his powers, Ballack was a player who was respected rather than loved. But the final, almost inevitable, swipes at his style and personality which will surely come over the next weeks should not detract from the fact he was one of the finest midfielders of his generation. And he has enough winners’ medals to prove it.