By Gabriel Tan
Apart from two seasons with his first club Chemnitzer FC, Ballack spent his whole career playing top-flight football - in the German Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich, and in the Premier League with Chelsea.
Ballack's first Bundesliga winner's medal came in Kaiserslautern's stunning 1997/98 campaign, when the club went on to win the league in their first season back after promotion from the 2.Bundesliga.
His performances at the Fritz-Walter-Stadion convinced Leverkusen to fork out €4million for his services in the summer of 1999, where he went on to establish himself as a key member of one of Germany's leading sides, even going on to earn the club captaincy.
However, his time at the BayArena was plagued by an inability to go all the way when challenging for trophies. In the 2001/02 season, Leverkusen finished runners-up in the Bundesliga, the DFB-Pokal and the UEFA Champions League.
Now reaching the prime of his career, Ballack was determined to add to the solitary medal he won with Kaiserslautern.
Along came Bayern, widely regarded as the biggest side in German football, who pipped Real Madrid to Ballack's signature. There, the dynamic midfielder truly fulfilled his potential, winning three Bundesliga titles and three DFB-Pokals.
Having accomplished all he could in Germany, Ballack next shifted his sights to a move abroad, after declaring he would not be renewing his contract with Bayern when it expired in the summer of 2006.
And on the eve of the 2006 World Cup, which was to be hosted in Germany, Ballack sealed a move to reigning Premier League champions Chelsea.
However, in his first three seasons at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea failed to win the Premier League once, and instead had to settle for two FA Cup triumphs and a League Cup title.
It was only in the 2009/10 season, which turned out to be Ballack's last at the club, where he managed to earn his first Premier League winners' medal, along with another FA Cup victory.
Ballack has since rejoined Leverkusen, yet his return to the place where he was once regarded as a hero has not been smooth-sailing to say the least.
Regularly criticised for showing a distinct lack of desire on the field, Ballack courted controversy when he requested not to be included in the match-day squad for a game against Wolfsburg in March after being told he would be starting on the bench. Another year at Leverkusen once again ended with a near-miss, as Leverkusen finished runners-up in the Bundesliga to Borussia Dortmund.
Plainly looking at Ballack's achievements, it is hard to argue that the former Germany captain has been one of the standout players of his generation. Winning four Bundesliga titles, a Premier League title, three DFB-Pokals and three FA Cups is quite some feat.
Yet when fans are asked to list the greatest players over the last decade, Ballack's name is not always an automatic return. Fabio Cannavaro, Thierry Henry, Raul and Francesco Totti are just some of the names that are regularly thrown up before Ballack even springs into one's mind.
Granted, despite only playing for five teams, Ballack has - perhaps deservingly - earned a reputation for being a mercenary. Regularly throughout his career, whenever a bigger club came knocking, he would always give in to their advances.
He repaid Leverkusen for giving him his big break by joining title rivals Bayern the moment they were interested. And after Bayern provided him the opportunity to win silverware on a regular basis, Ballack turned the other shoulder and eloped to the Premier League with Chelsea.
So perhaps Ballack has slightly tarnished his reputation with his distinct lack of loyalty.
The way in which he ended his association with the German national team has also marked an unsavoury end to what used to be a beautiful relationship.
Ballack's injury prior to the 2010 World Cup was initially seen as a huge blow to the German team's prospects. Yet with the loss of his talisman, national team coach Joachim Low was forced to hand starring roles to the likes of Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira and Thomas Muller, who acquitted themselves superbly.
And while new skipper Philipp Lahm could not inspire with the things he did on the pitch, he provided his young charges with words of encouragement rather than criticism, which used to be the case under Ballack.
Germany's young guns finished the 2010 World Cup in third place and Ballack has not been able to force himself back into the national fold since then. His international career all but came to an end when the German football association offered him a farewell match in a friendly against Brazil.
Ballack refused, claiming there was no sincerity involved considering the friendly had been arranged long before Low revealed he would no longer consider Ballack for international duty.
Some fans voiced their unhappiness at the treatment of Ballack, but by and large, the matter passed without much controversy. For most of the German fans, their former captain was effectively a thing of the past. They have other things to focus on, like how under Low, Germany have been transformed into an exciting outfit with a plethora of talented youngsters taking turns to shine.
A quick look at the jerseys that the German fans so proudly wear at an international match throws up a variety of different names. Ozil, Muller, Khedira, Lahm. Quite simply, the fans are now spoilt for choice when choosing their favourite player.
Yet fans are a notoriously fickle bunch, and they seem to have forgotten that there was a period of time in the not-too-distant past when German football was stuck in the doldrums, and Ballack was their sole shining light.
At the 2006 World Cup, with one of the least-impressive German teams to ever grace a World Cup campaign, Ballack almost singlehandedly dragged his charges to third place. For six whole years - when he was captain - Ballack was quite often the difference between a victory and defeat.
All that has since vanished in light of the new stars the German team can call on. Should this current side go on to claim Euro 2012, something which presently does not look beyond them, or even the World Cup in 2014, a new breed of German heroes will be born. The once-great tale of Ballack's tenure as Germany's inspirational leader will then be relegated to merely a prelude to an even greater story.
It will be interesting to see what kind of legacy Ballack leaves behind when he eventually calls time on his career. In terms of achievements, he has certainly won more titles than your average professional footballer. In terms of commitment, it's difficult to fault a man who gave his all for his country and led them through six forgettable years. Yet often people only remember how footballers presented themselves on the pitch. And for many, Ballack sometimes just didn't look like he cared.
It is likely he will be remembered a decade on. But whether people remember just how good he really was remains to be seen. And that, quite simply, is the enigma of Michael Ballack.