Former Germany captain Michael Ballack has announced his retirement from football.
Ballack, who turned 36 last week, played what proved his farewell Bundesliga match at the beginning of May for Bayer 04 Leverkusen, who he helped to the UEFA Champions League final a decade ago. Although he had been linked with sides in North America and Australia, he has opted not to play on after 585 club appearances and 145 goals.
Capped 98 times by Germany, scoring 42 times, Ballack said in a statement issued by a Hamburg law firm: "Aged 36, I can look back on a long and wonderful time in professional football, something I would not have dared dream of as a kid. It was a privilege to work with first-class coaches and fantastic team-mates. I will definitely miss playing in front of 80,000 fans or scoring a goal."
East German-born Ballack began his career at Chemnitzer FC and in 1998 won the league title with 1. FC Kaiserslautern, something he went on to do three times with FC Bayern München and once at Chelsea FC, where he again reached the UEFA Champions League final in 2008. He rejoined Leverkusen in 2010, also the year which brought his last Germany cap, having been the dominant player in the team for much of the decade, reaching the 2002 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2008 finals.
The recent months without football have shown me that now is the time to quit," Ballack added. "I am looking forward to a new chapter in my life and thank my family and all the great people who have advanced, challenged, accompanied and supported me. They all have played a big part in my success."
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