Club: FC Bayer Leverkusen (2000/2002) | FC Bayern Munich (2002/2004)
Growth type: Early/Lasting
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- Michael Ballack (born 26 September 1976) is a German professional footballer, who is currently playing for Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen. He is among the top goal scorers in the history of his international team. Ballack has worn the number 13 shirt for every team he has played for except for Kaiserslautern. He was selected by Pelé as one of FIFA's 100 Greatest Living Players, and as the UEFA Club Midfielder of the Year in 2002. He has won the German Footballer of the Year award three times – in 2002, 2003 and 2005.
Ballack began his career as a youth at Chemnitz, his local team, and made his professional debut in 1995. Although the team were relegated in his first season, his performances in the Regionalliga the following season led to a transfer to Kaiserslautern in 1997. He won the Bundesliga in his first season at the club; his first major honour. He became a first team regular in 1998–99 season and also earned his first senior national cap for Germany. He moved to Bayer Leverkusen for €4.1 million in 1999. The 2002 season saw him win a slew of runners-up medals: Bayer Leverkusen finished second in the Bundesliga, German Cup, UEFA Champions League and Germany lost to Brazil in the 2002 World Cup Final.
A €12.9 million move to Bayern Munich led to further honours: the team won the Bundesliga and German Cup double in 2003, 2005 and 2006. Ballack had become a prolific goalscorer from midfield, scoring 58 goals for Bayern Munich between 2002 and 2006. He joined Premier League club Chelsea in mid-2006 and won his first English honours, the FA Cup and League Cup, in his first season at the club. Injury ruled out much of 2007 but he returned the following season, helping Chelsea reach their first ever Champions League Final.
Internationally, Ballack has played in the European Championships in 2000, 2004 and 2008, and the FIFA World Cup in 2002 and 2006. Jürgen Klinsmann appointed him captain of the national team in 2004. Ballack scored consecutive game-winning goals in the quarter-final and semi-final to help his country to the 2002 World Cup Final, and led his team to the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup and the Euro 2008 Final.
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