Michael Ballack’s contract conundrum

With all contract talks delayed quite understandably till the end of what could be a double winning season down at Stamford Bridge, Michael Ballack does find himself at a crossroads in his Chelsea career, but is his contract one that’s worth renewing?

Joe Cole is another player who has found himself at odds with the upper echelons of the management over a protracted new contract, and you would be hard pressed to find a Chelsea fan who thinks they should let the jinky winger go on a free in the summer, for he’s a player of unquestionable talent and he’s proving that more and more with a run of games in the side, Michael Ballack on the other hand remains an entirely different story.

Ballack has had a frustrating 4 year spell at Chelsea so far, showing only glimpses of the form that once made him one of the most feared midfielders in the world. A classy operator on the ball, dominant in the air and a threat with and at set pieces, he arrived as the complete package but has so far failed to live up to this billing on a consistent enough basis.

His reported £130k a week wages were befitting of his reputation upon his arrival and his standing in the game, especially considering Chelsea didn’t even pay a fee for his transfer to the club, but his performances have only in patches matched this hefty layout. The fact that the German’s wages are paid to him in euro’s, which in recent times has become a much stronger currency than the pound, and you get the feeling Chelsea are being seriously hit in the pocket and ripped off, for the performances they’re getting back aren’t matching up.

He can look short of pace, lazy and like he doesn’t even care at times, contrast this with his comparatively great form for the national side during his stay at Chelsea, where as German captain he doesn’t look like the shadow of his former self that strolls around without a care in the world, it really goes some way to reinforcing the long held belief about Ballack that dogged his days at Bayern Munich, he’s only best when he’s the main man.

Right now he does seem like a pedestrian in the Chelsea midfield, he doesn’t add the steel nor the drive and urgency they were hoping for when they signed him. His diminishing aerial prowess and dead ball skills also make him less of a threat further up the field and his discipline, something which has always been in question to be fair, looks like it has permanently deserted him with the amount of needless fouls and silly free kicks given away to the opposition only bettered by midfield partner John Obi Mikel.

If you were talking about the Ballack of old then he’d be richly deserving of a contract extension, but based on the lacklustre displays he’s put in the last two seasons in particular, it’s hard to find the justification behind keeping him around.

The only way I can see it happening is if the board constrict manager Carlo Ancelotti’s spending in the summer, which they don’t look like doing this time around with investment needed to lower the squads average age despite their relative success this term.

If he were to lower his wage demands, which considering his age of 33 years old he should be prepared to do, and to accept a reduced role, then perhaps he might be worth keeping around as a squad player, but unless those conditions were met, I seriously question the need to keep him around.

Ballack’s contract conundrum at Chelsea could easily turn into a payday for a leading light in say Serie A, where the much slower pace would suit him down to the ground. His days as a name on the opposition team sheet to fear are almost certainly over and if Ancelotti really wants to be bold and shed the image he helped create at Milan, one of an ageing retirement home for formerly great pro’s who seemingly have a job for life, despite evidence of their failing performances, then he should ditch Ballack and never look back.

Written by James McManus