Michael Ballack came agonisingly close to lifting some of football’s biggest prizes but often missed out at the final hurdle.
Let’s be clear. The former Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich and Chelsea midfielder enjoyed a hugely successful career in the game. He won Germany’s Footballer of the Year award on three occasions during his spell in the Bundesliga and won a Premier League and FA Cup double at Stamford Bridge.
He also made 98 appearances for his country, scoring 42 times from midfield areas. He was regarded as one of the best in world football at one stage of his career but when it comes to trophies won, Ballack could and should have claimed far more.
Take the 2001/02 season, for example. He lost the Bundesliga title on the final day of the season with Bayer Leverkusen after his side surrendered a five-point lead at the top of the table over the last three games to finish second behind Borussia Dortmund.
In that same campaign, Leverkusen also lost 4-2 against Schalke in the German Cup final before a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat against Real Madrid in the Champions League final, where Zinedine Zidane scored that volley to seal a historic win at Hampden Park.
To add insult to injury, Ballack was also part of the Germany squad that lost in the 2002 World Cup final against Brazil. Although he didn’t play in the last game because of suspension, Ballack’s goals were the main reason Germany got there (including a winning goal in the semi-final against South Korea, despite the player knowing his earlier booking would rule him out of the final).
Ballack did, however, earn himself a move to Bayern Munich after being named in the UEFA Team of the Year in 2002
History unfortunately repeated itself for the German during the 2007/08 season when the talented midfielder experienced more heartache with Chelsea and the national side
Ballack was part of that Chelsea team who lost the Premier League title race on the final day, when Manchester United secured a 2-0 win at Wigan Athletic while Avram Grant’s side could only draw against Bolton Wanderers.
Chelsea were also runners-up in the 2008 League Cup as goals from Dimitar Berbatov and Jonathan Woodgate secured a Tottenham win and, of course, Ballack played all 120 minutes of the Champions League final defeat to Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, where the Blues lost on penalties (naturally Ballack converted his spot-kick).
It doesn’t stop there, either.
Playing for Germany in June 2008, Ballack lost in the Euro final against Spain, where a Fernando Torres goal sealed another historic win under Luis Aragones. It was just another miserable campaign for Ballack, who must have felt incredibly hard done by.
Is there a more unlucky footballer when it comes to missing out at the final hurdle?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.