With the Champions League starting again tomorrow night and Michael Ballack making an "emotional" return to Stamford Bridge, I tho...

With the Champions League starting again tomorrow night and Michael Ballack making an "emotional" return to Stamford Bridge, I thought I would re post an article I wrote back when the day it was confirmed that Ballack was leaving us was announced (so remember all of the below is back then).

Ballack spoke about tomorrow and said:
"I was very happy. For me the draw could hardly have been any better. I am looking forward to travelling there again, to playing there. Emotionally this will certainly be a special match for me."

So, here is my post - Ballack - Undervalued or did we expect too much?

After weeks of speculation about his future it has been confirmed today that Michael Ballack will be leaving Chelsea when his contract expires July 1st. Ballack has been at Chelsea for four years now and finally added the Premier League title to his FA Cup & Carling Cup winners medals. The question I have to ask is, 'Was Michael Ballack and his contribution to Chelsea undervalued or did we simply expect too much?

Ballack signed for Chelsea back in season 2006/2007 just after we had retained our Premiership title. Ballack and Andrei Shevchenko both came to the club but in different circumstances. Sheva came for a massive fee in the region of 30m but Ballack signed for Chelsea on a free transfer with a reported salary of 120K per week. At the time I can't really say I was bothered about what he was on, it was the fact that the German captain had come to us for nothing. We had all seen what he could do in the big competitions and the Champions League and knew he could be a star that could help take us to the next level as he had been averaging a goal every two games for Bayern.

Ballack has made 168 appearances for Chelsea scoring 25 goals since he joined us. He never maintaned his impressive scoring record and thats because of a whole host of reasons including injury. Ballack has been plagued with injury problems here and there and notably at the end of his first season here. He missed the Cup Final and didn't feature again until December the following season.

Ballack featured heavily in the side that season once he had returned from injury and was part of the side that lost to United on penalties in the Champions League final, his second defeat in the final of the competition.

Ballack remained a key member of the German national side and an inspiration to all. Unfortunately the Germans lost in the final against Spain. Another final defeat for Ballack.

The following season Ballack again had some injury problems to deal with but under Guus Hiddink was one of the mainstays in the side that went on the fantastic 13 match unbeaten run. Chelsea fans will remember that one game at the Bridge against Barcelona and the image of Ballack and Drogba will be etched in their minds forever. Ballack (as above) showed and vented his frustration and the frustration of every single Chelsea fan watching the game no matter where they were at the shocking display of referring that denied Chelsea a second successive appearance in the final.

Frustration then changed to elation as under Hiddink, Ballack and the Chelsea boys won the FA Cup with a 2-1 victory against Everton in the final. Ballack played his part that day as he had done whenever he was fit.

This season was the last of his contract under another new Manager in Carlo Ancelotti, his fifth in the time he had been at Chelsea. Ballack never really cemented his place in the starting eleven along with the likes of Lampard and Terry as Ancelotti changed the shape of the side to a Diamond formation and then back to the 4-3-3 formation. Ballack found himself battling with Essien, Mikel, Deco, Malouda and Lampard for four slots in midfield and it was only when Essien picked up his serious injury that Ballack forced his way into contention.

Ballack became much more of a feature in the side towards the end of the season and once Mikel was injured he slotted into the holding midfield role which suited his play and became a feature in our run in to the title. He had played in 45 games this season scoring 5 goals.

We all know by now that Ballack's Chelsea career and World Cup career came to end in the FA Cup final after a challenge by Kevin Prince Boateng injured Ballack and put him out of the game and the showpiece in South Africa in the summer. This was confirmed shortly after, and in recent weeks there has been mounting speculation about his Chelsea future. It had been reported that Chelsea wanted to offer Ballack just a one year deal and he was looking for two years. Only yesterday there had been reports that he could be off to the middle east.

Then we have had the official statement from Chelsea today that Ballack is leaving the club as a free agent and I have to admit I am still wondering if I feel as though his time at Chelsea has been understated and he has been undervalued by Chelsea fans or if he leaves us and we feel as though he didn't live upto our expectations.

Before he came to club we used to see visions of Ballack hitting 25-30 yard screamers into the top corner and that never happened at Chelsea. He had a goal in every two games record before his time and Chelsea and he struggled to maintain that kind of record wearing a blue shirt. You can argue that he was deployed in a different role here as he had to get used to Lampard being the one getting forward so maybe just maybe Ballack felt he had to change his game.

People make alot of the Frank Lampard & Steven Gerrard situation playing for England saying that they can't play together but surely Lampard and Ballack are the same. Ok Ballack doesn't get forward as much as these two but still has that nature about him in his game. Ballack proved he can play next to Lampard and I have mentioned on here numerous times that to me Ballack always provided a natural balance in our midfield when he played next to Lampard.

As a player Ballack always presents a calm and composed air about him. His touch is second to none and my god can he pass a ball with both feet. At times as we know, he can lose his cool, dive into tackles or stick his foot in notably this season against Man City when he was sent off as we went down to 9-men and were thrashed at the Bridge.

One thing is for sure about Ballack's time at Chelsea, he came here to win things and he has with the Carling Cup and FA Cup twice. He has finally won the Premier League title in his fourth season and some Chelsea fans blamed the signings of him and Sheva as the reason's that we lost the title in the first place. At the time it was hard to disagree as Sheva and Ballack hadn't shown the class that bought them to Chelsea in the first place.

Now, I am sure there are Chelsea fans amongst you that do feel as though Ballack is undervalued and his time at Chelsea is understated. On the flip side there are some of you that will feel today that its "Thanks" but that's about it. Will feel as though its no great loss to the squad.

I for one rate Ballack and his time at Chelsea. I personally thank him for giving it his all when selected and being a part of our recent success.

The question I want to ask you all is with the news today confirmed, "How would you describe Ballack's time at Chelsea?.


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