Cologne - Former Germany captain and four-time Bundesliga champion Michael Ballack has officially called time on his career as a professional footballer at the age of 36. The announcement of his retirement was made by his agent Michael Becker on Tuesday.

"At the age of 36, I can look back on a long and wonderful time in professional football," said the former Capitano. "As a child, I would never have even been able to dream of having such a career."

Franconian farewell


Ballack last appeared on a football field on 5 May this year when, in the 51st minute of Bayer Leverkusen's 4-1 win over 1.FC Nuremberg in Bavaria, he left the Bundesliga's stage, and effectively the footballing stage as a whole. That was his 267th Bundesliga game in a career which spanned almost two decades.

"It was a privilege working with first-class coaches and fantastic team mates," added Ballack, who also captained his country. "Of course I am going to miss running out in front of 80,000 spectators or scoring goals. I am now looking forward to the next chapter in my life and would like to thank my family and all the amazing people who have supported me, motivated me and accompanied me. They have made a major contribution to my success."

Road of glory


Ballack was released by Leverkusen in the summer after they chose not to offer their former captain a contract extension. He has had plenty of offers in the meantime, from all corners of the globe, but said that the decision to retired had matured in his time away from the field. "The last few months without playing football have shown me that the time had come to give it up," he said.

Ballack's career started in 1995 and he did not have to wait long before getting his hands on the first of what turned out to be four Bundesliga crowns, winning the title with 1.FC Kaiserslautern in 1998. He moved on to Bayer 04 Leverkusen, where he went agonisingly close to winning the Champions League in 2002, the year he also finished runner-up with Germany at the World Cup before inherting the captain's armband from Oliver Kahn.

Short of a century


He went on to win three more Bundesliga titles in four years with Bayern Munich before moving to Chelsea, with whom he won the Premier League, the FA Cup three times and the League Cup. His international career came to an end after 98 appearances when injury forced him out of the 2010 World Cup. He remained Germany captain for a year after that tournament, but was unable to fight his way back into the national team.