Michael Ballack, former German National Team captain who plays for Bayer Leverkusen in the German Bundesliga, will join ESPN as a studio analyst for the UEFA European Football Championship 2012™ (Friday, June 8, through Sunday, July 1). Ballack will contribute to ESPN and ESPN2’s English-language coverage of the quadrennial European championship, appearing on pre-match, halftime and post-match shows as well as SportsCenter, ESPNEWS and other news and information programs.
Appointed German National Team captain in 2004 by former coach Jurgen Klinsmann (current U.S. Men’s National Team coach), Ballack played in 98 international matches and scored 42 goals for Germany. He played for Germany’s senior team from 1999 – 2010, appearing in three UEFA European Football Championships in 2000, 2004 and 2008, and two FIFA World Cups in 2002 and 2006.
Ballack will join ESPN’s Steve McManaman and Alexi Lalas, both stars of the company’s award-winning presentation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as the three week tournament’s lead English-language studio analysts from the ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn. McManaman, a Liverpool legend and former England National Team player, has been with ESPN fulltime since November 2010 as an English Premier League match analyst and studio analyst for international matches. Lalas, a former U.S. Men’s National Team defender and Major League Soccer executive, is a studio analyst for soccer. (Links to bios for Steve McManaman and Alexi Lalas)
“We already have two of the very best analysts with Alexi and Macca. Adding Michael Ballack will make our coverage even deeper. Germany is one of the favorites. Who better to speak about them than Michael?” said Jed Drake, ESPN senior vice president and executive producer. “Our analyst team was one of keys to our World Cup success – much the same again for the Euros.”
Ballack added: “I am really looking forward to be a part of ESPN’s European Championship team. While leaving Europe for my first television commentator role in the United States is a challenge, it is also an opportunity to share with football fans in America insight from my experiences playing in the last three Championships.”
Beginning Friday, June 8 through Sunday, July 1, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes will combine to present more than 200 hours of live coverage of the UEFA EURO 2012, the most comprehensive presentation of the quadrennial European championship in the United States.
In 2008, ESPN2, ESPN, ESPN Classic and ABC combined to present live all 31 matches of the UEFA European Football Championship. ESPN Deportes, the Spanish-language home of the championship, also televised all 31 matches – five on tape-delay.
Arguably the best central midfielder ever in German soccer, Ballack began his playing career with a regional club Chemnitzer FC in 1995 at 19 years old. His performance on the team earned him a transfer to Kaiserslautern in 1997.
Ballack’s move to Kaiserlautern marked the beginning of a professional career at the senior level that led him to some of Europe’s most prominent clubs. After two seasons (1997-99) and a league title in 1998 at Kaiserslautern, Ballack moved to Bayer Leverkusen, where his career blossomed in a more attacking role in the midfield. At Leverkusen (1999-2002), he scored 27 goals in the Bundesliga and nine in European competition over three seasons.
By the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea-Japan, Ballack had earned a spot as a key member of the national team. He scored in back-to-back matches against the United States (quarterfinal) and South Korea (semifinal) to help lead Germany to the final. Ballack was suspended for the final match following a tactical foul in the semifinal, and Germany lost 0-2 to Brazil. He was selected to the FIFA World Cup Team of the Tournament, a feat he would replicate in 2006. Same year, Ballack won the first of his three German Footballer of the Year Awards. He won the other two in 2003 and 2005.
Ballack’s successful run in the 2002 World Cup attracted suitors from the best clubs in the Bundesliga and across Europe. He decided to stay in Germany, signing with perennial powerhouse Bayern Munich, where he enjoyed the most successful stretch of his professional career. Bayern won three Bundesliga titles and three German Cups in his four seasons (2002-06) with the club.
During the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Ballack captained the Klinsmann-coached German team, which played inspiring free-flowing soccer en-route to a third-place finish on its home soil. He earned his second selection to the FIFA World Cup Team of the Tournament and his team’s performance stirred renewed national pride across the nation. Germany’s record in two World Cups with Ballack: runner-up in 2006 and third-place in 2006. He played in 11 FIFA World Cup matches and scored three goals.
Ballack played sparingly in the UEFA EURO 2000. In 2004 and 2008, he was selected for the UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament. In 2008, Ballack and the team reached the final before succumbing 0-1 to Spain.
Following the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Ballack joined Chelsea FC in the English Premier League on a free transfer. He played for Chelsea from 2006-10. He won a Premier League title and three FA Cups with The Blues before signing a two-year contract with Bayer Leverkusen in 2010 to return home to the German Bundesliga.
— 30 —