Games That Changed My Life: Michael Ballack tells FFT the defining fixtures that made him
The German powerhouse recalls ding-dongs with Liverpool and Manchester United, and Die Mannschaft's 5-1 shellacking at home to England
Michael Ballack was the quintessential box-to-box midfielder; a leader for the Germany national team as well as a host of clubs in his native land and England. The former Kaiserslautern, Leverkusen, Bayern and Chelsea man won five league titles across spells at three different clubs, in two different counties.
Here, he tells FourFourTwo about the matches that changed his life...
This article first appeared Issue 295 of FourFourTwo. Subscribe now and get 13 issues a year delivered straight to your door.
Germany 1-5 England (September 1, 2001 World Cup qualifier)
“One of the most important matches of my career was a negative one. That was a new experience, to lose so heavily at home with the German national team. We got a lot of criticism, and as a young player it wasn’t easy to deal with. But we went into the play-offs against Ukraine and I scored once in Kiev, then twice in the second leg at Dortmund. That was so important, as Germany always go to the World Cup. The media and the fans had a different view of me after that.”
Man Utd 2-2 Bayer Leverkusen (April 24, 2002 Champions League)
“I scored twice against Liverpool in the quarter-finals, then the semi-final first leg was amazing. It was my first game at Old Trafford, in front of 65,000 fans, and was a fantastic match. I equalised and we drew 2-2, before drawing 1-1 at home to reach the final on away goals. We were the outsiders but played great football. It was fun being in that team.”
Germany 1-0 South Korea (June 25, 2002 World Cup semi-final)
“This was an emotional match as I got booked and was in a strange situation – knowing if we won, I’d be suspended for the final. But I didn’t lose my focus and scored the goal to get my team through. There was a lot going through my head.”
Chelsea 4-4 Liverpool (April 14, 2009 Champions League)
“We’d won 3-1 at Anfield in the first leg of the quarter-finals so were confident, but Liverpool had nothing to lose, we made mistakes and they went 2-0 up. Thankfully we had mental strength and fought back to reach the semi-finals.”
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Michael Ballack made over 100 appearances for each of Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich and Chelsea during a career that also saw him turn out for the German national side 98 times. The midfielder won the Bundesliga, DFB Pokal, Premier League and FA Cup, and was named Germany's Footballer of the Year on three occasions.
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