FA Cup, Carling Cup, Premier League, Champions League, Euro 2008. It is an honor for most players to participate in any one of these world class events against the world's top players. Michael Ballack was given a chance in each one of these competitions and came in second in all but the FA Cup (which Chelsea exited disappointingly in the 6th round).
As one of the world's premier soccer players, is the opportunity to play still an honor? When a new opportunity arises each year, is it enough just to play?
Most people measure success in soccer by the amount of silverware that is won. By that definition, Michael Ballack has had one of the most disappointing seasons on record.
After losing favor with Jose Mourinho, Ballack returned from ankle surgery in 2007 to regain his form in midfield and become a key part of the Chelsea starting 11, even wearing the captains armband in the absence of Terry and Lampard.
Chelsea was thought to be one of the strongest sides in the English league, however, after the sacking of Mourinho the entire season was left in doubt. Replacement Avram Grant led the team to the Carling Cup Final on February 24, 2008 only to lose in the 94th minute.
If only it had ended there. Chelsea chased Manchester United to the last weekend with no difference in points between the two sides. However, it was not to be, as Chelsea dropped their last game, though they would have lost the title by goal differential anyway.
Chelsea squared off against Manchester United again on May 21st in the Champions League final. After finishing full time 1-1 it seemed that Chelsea held the upper hand, however, in extra time striker Didier Drogba was sent off for slapping Nemanja Vidic and Chelsea seemed to lose their composure.
In the end it was John Terry, kicking in Drogba's spot, that would cost Chelsea the Cup during penalty kicks.
Just one month later, after winning their way convincingly to the final, the German national team lost 1-0 to Spain for the European Championships. Leaving Ballack with a runners' up medal for the fourth time in one season.
I cannot imagine any other figure in sports feeling as poorly as Michael Ballack most likely does now. Fans can only hope that he comes back next season with restored vigor and determination to win as much as possible.
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