Ballack hangs up his boots

Former Germany captain Michael Ballack announced his retirement at the age of 36 on Tuesday to end a career in which he played for Bayern Munich and Chelsea and helped his country reach the 2002 World Cup final.

Ballack, who returned to Bayer Leverkusen in 2010 but was left without a contract after last season, had been linked with a possible move to the United States or Australia.

"At the age of 36 I can look back at a long and wonderful time in professional football which I did not dare dream of as a child," he said in a brief statement. "It was a privilege to have worked with top coaches and fantastic team-mates. Obviously I will miss playing in front of 80,000 people or scoring a goal."

A strong physical presence in midfield with a powerful shot, Ballack, who won 98 caps for Germany, got his breakthrough at Kaiserslautern and in 1998 helped them win the Bundesliga title, the first promoted team to do so.

A three-year spell at Bayer Leverkusen ended in 2002 with the team imploding and narrowly failing to win the Bundesliga.

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