Born in Görlitz, East Germany in September, 1976, former professional footballer Michael Ballack reportedly has no time for religion or superstition. Indeed, throughout his playing career, for club and country, he repeatedly requested to wear the supposedly unlucky number ’13’ shirt. He once said, ‘Other players don’t want it, but that’s why I want it.’
Superstitious or not, there is little doubt that Ballack could have, and probably should have, won far more honours than he actually did. A case in point was the 2001/02 season, during which his club side, Bayer Leverkusen – subsequently dubbed Bayer ‘Neverkusen’ – finished runners-up in the Bundesliga, the DFB-Pokal, or German Cup, and the UEFA Champions League. In the Bundesliga, Leverkusen lost two of their last three games, thereby surrendering a five-point lead at the top of the table and missing out, by a single point to Borussia Dortmund. Later in 2002, Ballack scored the winning goal for Germany against South Korea in the semi-final of the World Cup, but picked up booking and missed the final, which Germany lost 2-0 to Brazil.
Ballack subsequently joined Bayern Munich, with whom he completed the Bundesliga – DFB-Pokal double three times, in 2003, 2005 and 2006. However, his days as a ‘nearly man’ were not over. Having joined Chelsea on a free transfer in 2006, in 2007/08, Ballack once again won runners-up medals in the Premier League, UEFA Champions League and League Cup; in a strange coincidence, he also captained Germany to the final of Euro 2008, where they lost 1-0 to Spain.