Michael Ballack refuses to see his move from Chelsea to Bayer Leverkusen as a step down in his career and has set his sights on winning more silverware with the Bundesliga club. The Germany captain yesterday completed his return to Leverkusen, signing a two-year contract with the side where he first rose to prominence between 1999 and 2002.
Although Ballack's last spell with them ended in triple disappointment with defeat in the UEFA Champions League final, a runners-up spot in the Bundesliga and an agonising DFB-Pokal final loss, he has returned to put things right by winning trophies.
"We want to win the league in the near future," he proclaimed. "My ambitions are still very high. I have always been playing to win trophies over the last decade and we can do that with Bayer too. Of course Bayern are the top favourites, but there is such great potential here in Leverkusen and we should also go a long way in Europe."
My ambitions are still very high. I have always been playing to win trophies over the last decade and we can do that with Bayer too.
Ballack has spent the last four years in England with the Blues, but he admitted he was not tempted to remain abroad when he learnt his contract was not going to be extended. "As soon as I knew I was leaving Chelsea, our first thought was to return to Germany," he revealed. "That is our home and we are happy there. We should settle there for the future."
Ballack, who was forced out of the FIFA World Cup with an ankle injury sustained in Chelsea's FA Cup final victory over Portsmouth has signed a two-year contract with Leverkusen but claims he could play on longer, as long as he remains fit.
"Of course I still want to play for the national team and I have my eyes on Euro 2012," he said. "I will be 35 then and we will have to see nearer the time what happens (with a new contract). My health also plays a very big role."
Ballack will be given his favourite number 13 shirt with Leverkusen, but he may not necessarily be handed the captain's armband. And he claims he is not concerned about who leads the team onto the field for their first Bundesliga match of the season on August 21.
"That is up to the coach," he said. "I don't have to be the captain to assume responsibility. Simon Rolfes is a great captain and has filled the position well and I think that it will remain that way."