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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Football's unluckiest number 13
French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre knew a thing or two about philosophy.
So when he immortalised himself in his play No Exit with the lines "l'enfer, c'est les autres" (which translates itself into English as ‘hell is other people’), he probably knew what he was talking about.
It would hardly be a challenge to find people to agree with him, but there is a certain person who might, taking his own personal experiences into account, just about beg to differ.
That man is Michael Ballack.
Because, for the elegant midfielder, ‘hell has always been about finishing second.’
Ballack’s storied career begins in the streets of Gorlitz, in what was formerly East Germany. A natural talent at an early age his impeccable play and football brain set him apart from his peers. This boy would grow up to be a winner was everyone’s judgement.
Yet it never really turned out that way for Michael.
Making his break with Kaiserlaurten, under the tutelage of Otto Rehangel (with whom who did not always see eye to eye), Ballack’s consummate ‘midfield stroller’ style won him some admirers but numerous detractors.
His cocky head-up style of play and seemingly lazy demeanour hardly helped the image, but his talent was there for all to see.
A talent which finally came to bed in the infancy of the new millennium as he twice led his team Bayer Leverkusen heartbreakingly close to Bundesliga glory – only to see it snatched away at the end.
The second of those years saw the story of Leverkusen adapted into football folklore. In the running for three titles come the end of the season, they won none, losing out to Bayern Munich twice and a Zinedine Zidane special in the final of the Champions League in Hampden.
2002 was all set to be Ballack’s year, but his hell had already arrived.
The cruel sobriquet of ‘Neverkusen’ tagged him into the World Cup in Asia in the summer, but Ballack showed the resilience that has marked his career.
Standing tall time and again, he and Oliver Kahn danced to their own little tune as they propelled a thoroughly mediocre Germany into the final of the World Cup against Brazil.
It was to be the biggest game of Ballack’s life - - only he never even played in it. A necessary foul in the previous game against South Korea had seen him booked. His infraction would cost him his place in the final, Ballack knew, but there were no ‘tears of Gazza,’ no remonstration, no regrets.
Instead he pulled himself up to score the winning goal not minutes later to put his team into the biggest game in football. It didn’t matter that he would not play in it.
Ballack’s subsequent move to Bayern Munich was seen as a chance to end the drought of trophies. And he was satisfied, albeit briefly. Bundesliga crowns and DFB Cup’s followed but Ballack was eyeing bigger prizes – the Champions League still proved elusive, Germany crashed at the Euro’s and the Confederation Cup proved a bridge too far despite his probings.
Where it mattered, the man was still losing out and he was getting no younger.
Perhaps the World Cup would help. A tactical sacrifice saw him desert his previous adventurous style to bring more stability to Germany. And that it did with Ballack playing a captain’s role as he led his team into the semifinals, only to be so cruelly denied at the end by subsequent champions Italy.
This time the arrogant strut was gone. The tears flowed for Ballack. He knew his World Cup chapter may have been closed.
Chelsea was supposed to bring him the glory that he so desired. A settling in period in the first season saw Ballack much maligned for his low-key performances but FA and Carling Cup glory made up for missing out the real trophies.
Ballack would not stand any of that in his second season. After his return from a career-threatening injury he proved the driving force behind Chelsea’s challenge, leading from the front in both the Champions League and in the league.
Yet as fate would dictate yet again, Ballack was in for some more cruel blows.
United pipped the league on the last day, but Ballack’s eyes were firmly on Moscow and the Champions League.
He played his role, did everything asked of him but score, converted in the shoot-out and waited to have the winner’s medal he so desired.
For one fleeting moment, he might have believed. But all too soon it was gone. One fatal slip of John Terry’s boot was all it took and Ballack’s dreams came crashing down once again, six years after the nightmare of 2002.
Unlike at Hampden, this time the rain in Moscow could not hide the tears of the man.
The reasons are understandable.
At Hampden was a man with the world at his feet, here there was a man who felt his time was running out.
‘History remembers winners,’ is something Ballack himself parroted. ‘I don’t want to be known as someone who came close a few times but was never good enough.’
The truth might hurt Michael. Because, the fact that he is good enough is something everyone (himself included) knows.
Perhaps he is just not lucky enough. But he should fear not for his legacy.
For while history may not remember Michael Ballack as a winner, they will almost certainly remember his as football’s greatest nearly man.
As they say, ‘c'est la vie.’
 

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Rita..come on be nicer!! :)

How are you doing?
I am totally well, couldn´t be better. :)

Loooool, sorry how should I say that. I always thought he´s overrated. He´s a solid player....but far, far away from being one of the the absolutely best. Good, but not great. ´Cause great players win titles, great players lead their teams, great players decide games. That´s what Ballack simply just doesn´t do. He has more 2nd places than anyone else.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
delpi_vanni_10 said:
I am totally well, couldn´t be better.

Loooool, sorry how should I say that. I always thought he´s overrated. He´s a solid player....but far, far away from being one of the the absolutely best. Good, but not great. ´Cause great players win titles, great players lead their teams, great players decide games. That´s what Ballack simply just doesn´t do. He has more 2nd places than anyone else.
Glad to c you are doing fine. Whereabouts you staying these days? What you doing?

I am sorry to see you dont rate Ballack. But i know you rate RVN ;) and come on now..he hasnt even been where Ballack has. And for that matter i wouldnt want Ballack to win something on the coattails of other players like Del Piero did in 2006 (granted that chipped goal broke my heart!)
 

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Glad to c you are doing fine. Whereabouts you staying these days? What you doing?

I am sorry to see you dont rate Ballack. But i know you rate RVN ;) and come on now..he hasnt even been where Ballack has. And for that matter i wouldnt want Ballack to win something on the coattails of other players like Del Piero did in 2006 (granted that chipped goal broke my heart!)
you can´t compare him with Ruud, totally different player. ;)
Some missunderstanding obviously here: I don´t judge about the person Ballack, I just don´t know him personally and the image of a player created by the media never interests me.

As player I´ve nothing against him - I only think that he is not as good as german media or so called experts tell he is / want him to be. I mean: if he was spanish or italian he would be one of many in these countries. And not hyped as the big superstar. Of course in Germany it´s different ´cause there are not so many of his category. And he´s at least one of the fewest that play on a high level at international clubs.

Well: moment of truth at Euro 2008. We´ll see what great leader he will be.
 
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