On the surface Michael Ballack has had an impressive career: appearances in Champions League finals and World Cup semi-finals, league titles in Germany and England and captain of the German national side. Such a CV could only belong to one of the best players in the world.
As well as being physically strong, Ballack possesses excellent technical ability and is effective in the air. His commitment to his team cannot be questioned either – he selflessly drove Germany to victory in the 2000 World Cup semi-final against South Korea, scoring the winner despite knowing he would miss the final due to a yellow card.
However, has Ballack ever truly done enough to merit the praise he has received in some quarters? Well frankly, no he hasn’t. While there’s no doubting his talent, there are very few big occasions – when it really mattered – where he has taken a game by the scruff of the neck. He has the ability to dominate matches but, over the years, he hasn’t done so.
In his early days at Stamford Bridge, he was described as playing like he had “a huge cigar in his mouth.” That’s perhaps a bit harsh, but it’s not unfair to suggest that Ballack could have asserted himself more when competing at the top level.