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Ballack announces retirement

Michael Ballack, who won 98 caps for Germany and scored 42 international goals, has retired from football, a statement released through his lawyer said.

Ballack, 36, began his professional career at Chemnitzer in 1995 and went on to play for Kaiserslautern, Bayer Leverkusen (twice), Bayern Munich and Chelsea. He had been without a club since leaving Leverkusen at the end of last season, despite being linked with a move to the Australian A-League.

His outstanding career saw him win the German Footballer of the Year accolade three times and play for his country, which he also captained, in five international tournaments.

In his statement, the former midfielder, regularly acclaimed as one of the best in the world, said: "At the age of 36, I can look back on a long and wonderful time in professional football which I would not have dared to dream about as a kid.

"It was a privilege working with top managers and fantastic players. I will certainly miss playing in front of 80,000 people, or scoring a goal. Recent months without playing professional football have, however, shown me that the time to end my career has come.

"I am looking forward to a new chapter in my life and thank my family and all the great people who have furthered, challenged, accompanied and supported me. They all have a great share in my success."

Ballack's spell in English football began when he arrived at Stamford Bridge on a free transfer from Bayern shortly before the 2006 World Cup took place in his home country.

The midfielder won one Premier League title, three FA Cups and a League Cup in more than 150 Chelsea appearances, but was also part of the team that lost the champions League final to Manchester United on penalties.

He had been even more successful in Munich, winning three Bundesliga titles and three DFB-Pokals, but first lifted the Bundesliga with Kaiserslautern, who took the crown in their first season after promotion.

Ballack spent the final two seasons of his career with Leverkusen, making what turned out to be his last appearance as a professioanl footballer in a 4-1 win over Nurnberg on May 5. He was given a standing ovation when substituted after 51 minutes.

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