The former German captain was taken to hospital in Freiburg on Friday night, returning to his team hotel at 1.30 a.m. with the bad news that his nose was broken – just hours after being hailed as a hero for his goal which gave Leverkusen a 1-0 victory.
He was hurt during a tackle with Freiburg’s Jan Rosenthal in the 65th minute of the match, after which he was substituted off the field.
“That is now of course doubly bitter for him,” said team colleague Lars Bender. “One can see how important a fit Michael Ballack is for us at the moment.”
Ballack has been struggling with fitness for months, and his return to form leading Leverkusen to a win seemed perfect. He scored after just 103 seconds of play, chalking up his first Budesliga goal since May 2006 when he was playing for Bayern Munich.
“Michael played a very strong first half, and anticipated the situation in front of goal very well,” said Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt.
National trainer Joachim Löw, who deselected Ballack from his team, was watching the match, but had no comment to make on his former captain’s performance.
It is now not certain whether Ballack will be able to play in Tuesday’s clash against Valencia at the Mestalla stadium there, where the hosts will be looking to claw back their current deficit.
Halfway through the Champions League Group E, Ballack’s former home Chelsea is on top with seven points, while Leverkusen is just behind with six points and Valencia is third with two.