Germany midfielder Michael Ballack has returned to his former club Bayer 04 Leverkusen, signing a two-year deal after his contract with Chelsea FC expired at the end of last season.
Ballack is back at the team he helped reach the UEFA Champions League final in 2002, after four seasons at Chelsea where he played a key role in their Premier League and FA Cup double last term. Ballack sustained an ankle injury during Chelsea's FA Cup final victory against Portsmouth FC in May which ruled him out of the FIFA World Cup.
My return to Leverkusen completes a circle for me," the 33-year-old said. "I had a wonderful and successful time here, which I always look back on fondly. I will be playing in a young and talented squad, which helped convince me to make this decision." Leverkusen will compete in the UEFA Europa League after finishing fourth last term.
"Our squad will gain a lot of quality with Michael Ballack joining us," Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Völler added. "The fact he opted to join Leverkusen, despite our financial restrictions compared to other teams, shows his emotional bond with the club."
Ballack began his career at second division Chemnitzer FC before moving to 1. FC Kaiserslautern in 1997 and winning the Bundesliga in his first season in the top flight. A move to Leverkusen followed in 1999 and he made 79 Bundesliga appearances in three seasons during which the club twice finished runners-up.
He joined FC Bayern München following Leverkusen's UEFA Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid CF in 2002. At Bayern, Ballack won three successive league and cup doubles between 2003 and 2006, cementing his reputation as one of the finest midfielders in the European game and prompting his move to Chelsea in 2006. The 33-year-old made 105 Premier League appearances in four years at Stamford Bridge.
Ballack, Germany's player of the year in 2002, 2003 and 2005, has scored 42 times in 98 appearances for his country and featured in their loss to Spain in the final of UEFA EURO 2008.
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