FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Former Germany captain Michael Ballack retired from football on Tuesday, leaving the game without a major international title despite being the defining German player of his generation.
Ballack has been without a club since his contract with Bayer Leverkusen expired at the end of last season, and his decision to retire came after he failed to reach an agreement with the Western Sydney Wanderers about a move to the Australian A-League.
"At 36, I look back at a long and wonderful time in professional football," Ballack said in a statement released by his lawyer's office. "It was a privilege to work together with first-rate coaches and fantastic teammates."
Ballack said he would miss the experience of playing at packed stadiums and and scoring goals, "but the last months without football showed me that it was time to stop."
"I look forward to a new chapter in my life," Ballack said, and thanked his family "and all the great people" for their support during his career.
The former midfielder played 98 games and scored 42 goals — many of them decisive — for Germany before being pushed out after missing the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with an ankle injury.
With coach Joachim Loew seeking to introduce younger players into the squad, he decided not to call up his former captain again after a public feud. Ballack declined an offer to make a farewell appearance for the team.
Loew paid tribute to Ballack on Tuesday, calling him "a great footballer who is known around the world."
"In the national team I always valued Michael as a pillar and a very good player with excellent qualities. He was always dominant on the field and did everything for success," Loew said.
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