Ballack returns to Bayer Leverkusen

Former Germany captain and Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack is poised to sign a two-year contract with his old team Bayer Leverkusen in a 15-million-euro deal, the club confirmed on Friday.

Ballack returns to Bayer Leverkusen
Back to the future for Ballack. Photo: DPA

“My return to Bayer … is the closing of a circle for me. I had a great and successful time here which I think back on with great pleasure. That played a role in my decision for Bayer,” said the 33-year-old.

“But what convinced me above all was the excellent footballing potential of this young and attractive team,” added Ballack, forced to miss Germany’s World Cup campaign in South Africa due to an ankle injury.

Ballack was released on a free transfer at the end of the season by Chelsea, sparking a rush to sign the international playmaker, who has been capped 98 times for Germany.

Three Bundesliga clubs – Hamburg, Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg – reportedly showed interest in the powerful midfielder, along with Liverpool and Tottenham in the Premier League and at least one Spanish outfit.

Both Hamburg and Wolfsburg offered Ballack more money, but he elected to go to his former club in what has been described in the German press as a “move from the heart.”

Ballack played for Leverkusen between 1999 and 2002, scoring 27 goals before a move to Bayern Munich.

He also held talks with Real Madrid’s new coach Jose Mourinho, but negotiations broke down as the Spanish giants were reportedly too slow to make a concrete offer.

Ballack, currently on holiday with his family in Sardinia, will sign the contract with Leverkusen when he returns, said German sports agency SID. His basic annual pay is set to be around €6 million but various bonuses will push up the total two-year deal to around €15 million, the report added.

Leverkusen’s sporting director Rudi Völller said: “Our team will get a massive surge in quality with Michael Ballack. The fact he chose Bayer when we had much less financial clout than our competitors shows his emotional attachment to the team.”

“Michael will be welcomed here in Leverkusen with open arms,” said Bayer general manager Wolfgang Holzhauser.

After playing a prominent role for Chelsea in the Champions League, Ballack will ply his trade in the less high-profile Europa league next season, as Leverkusen, fourth in last season’s Bundesliga, narrowly missed out on a Champions League spot.

Ballack was set to take the captain’s armband in South Africa, but his World Cup dream died when he injured his ankle playing for Chelsea against Portsmouth in the FA Cup final at the end of May.

Following the injury, Uli Hoeneß, president of Bayern Munich, encouraged him to retire from international football.

However, former Germany coach Jürgen Klinsmann urged him to get over his World Cup injury heartbreak by focusing on the 2012 European Championship.

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Chemical reaction likely to blame for deadly blast at German plant

An explosion that killed seven people at a hazardous waste site in Germany in July was likely caused by a chemical reaction inside a waste storage tank, local authorities said Monday, citing an interim report.

Chemical reaction likely to blame for deadly blast at German plant
The site of the Chempark explosion on July 27th. Photo: dpa | Oliver Berg

The July 27 blast at the Chempark chemical complex in the western city of Leverkusen, which also injured 31 workers, was heard several kilometres away and rattled the windows of nearby homes.

It sent up a large cloud of black smoke that prompted authorities to urge locals to stay indoors, although later examinations showed no danger to residents’ health.

The interim findings, announced by the Cologne district government, suggest that a chemical reaction “probably” caused waste liquid in storage tank 3 to self-heat and rapidly become warmer, leading to a build-up of pressure it was unable to withstand.

“The whole process happened so quickly that the safety mechanisms were no longer able to dissipate the pressure. When the pressure exceeded the design pressure of the container, it exploded,” the interim report is quoted as saying.

The explosion then triggered a large blaze at the park’s waste storage and incineration site that took firefighters hours to put out.

Chempark operator Currenta said in a statement that the early findings match its own investigations.

The Cologne district government said it was awaiting further expert analysis before final conclusions could be made about the cause of the blast.

Prosecutors in Cologne have opened an investigation against unknown persons on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter and causing an explosion through negligence.

All those killed and injured in the explosion worked at the chemical site.

The blast area, in Leverkusen’s Buerrig district, was separate from Chempark’s main industrial park that houses numerous companies including Bayer, Lanxess and Evonik Industries.

READ MORE: Death toll in German chemical blast climbs to six