German Bundesliga club Bayer 04 Leverkusen yesterday presented to the media their biggest signing in years, German international captain Michael Ballack. Having left the club in 2002 and after four years each at FC Bayern Munich and FC Chelsea London he returns to the club which made him an international star.
And the media interest was worthy of an internationally renowned player. In the press area of the BayArena there where around 130 journalists, 25 photographers and a dozen TV crews. The calm and quiet days in Leverkusen are most likely over and expectations are set to rise amongst the fans too.
Ballack arrived for the press conference along with club MD Wolfgang Holzhaeuser, sports manager Rudi Voeller and coach Jupp Heynckes. And on a hot day Ballack came dressed in shorts and a black T-Shirt.
Holzhaeuser termed it as the "Transfer of the Year" for the club and said, "If it only had been an issue of money, then we wouldn't have had any chance to sign Michael Ballack."
But as sports manager Rudi Voeller stated the Bayer AG was willing to help make the transfer possible plus there where the arguments regarding the young, talented team and Michael Ballack was willing to come back to Leverkusen.
Ballack thereafter said things went really fast. The first informal talks were held in mid-May, just before his injury, on the sidelines of the testimonial match for his long time friend Bernd Schneider. It didn't look realistic then, but both sides continued to be in touch plus it helped that both sides knew each other which in the end most likely clinched the deal.
Ballack also sees the potential in the team and hopes he can finally fulfil his dreams of winning trophies with Bayer 04 Leverkusen. In 2001/02 the club finished second and runners-up in the UEFA Champions League, German Bundesliga and German Cup (DFB Pokal). That summer also a number of Bayer players were part of the German national team which finished runners-up in the 2002 FIFA World Cu. And since then Ballack has the tag of always coming second on him, which he couldn't change at Bayern, Chelsea or the German national team.
But first Ballack would need to regain match fitness. He is currently working on his rehabilitation and hopes to be fit again for the start of the Bundesliga season on August 21 when Leverkusen travel to Borussia Dortmund.
Coming to the topic of Germany Ballack made it clear that he wasn't retiring from international football and was still the captain.
Ballack said, "I am the captain of the national team. Philipp Lahm has made his claim at a moment that I feel is inopportune. I was injured and could not defend myself. There are hierarchies. I am going to talk to Philipp about this business."
Surely a conversation is going to be on amongst Ballack and Lahm when they next meet-up at the Germany camp.