BREMEN, GERMANY - JANUARY 28: Michael Ballack of Leverkusen looks on before Bundesliga match between SV Werder Bremen and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Weser Stadium on January 28, 2012 in Bremen, Germany. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Michael Ballack and Leverkusen have had a falling out, possibly setting the stage for an exit from the Bay Arena before the season is over and MLS is lurking
Michael Ballack has fallen far out of favor at Bayer Leverkusen and he doesn't even appear to be an option at the Bay Arena. Now, a war of words has broken out between his agent and the club as the midfielder's time in Germany dwindles. That just opens the door for another move for Ballack, who has long been linked to MLS and now is being linked to the New York Red Bulls with a move maybe coming as soon as April.
The former Germany captain returned to Leverkusen in 2010 after a disappointing stint at Chelsea, but things have been rocky at the Bay Arena as he has struggled to stay healthy. With the club down to sixth in the Bundesliga and Ballack benched, things have got tenuous. The player met with sporting director Rudi Voeller, although the meeting was not a success and while the club has said publicly that the decision to bring Ballack back into the club turned out poorly, Ballack's agent has accused the club of making his client a scapegoat.
Ballack's contract with Leverkusen ends after the season and nobody expects him to return to the club, however now that he and the club are feuding, some believed that he could leave the club as soon as this April. With Ballack on the outs and him being the highest paid player at the club, it wouldn't be a shock to see the club let him leave earlier than the summer and his former coach Klaus Topmöller says that a move to MLS is a possibility.
"It sounds so as if Michael will no longer play at Leverkusen," Topmöller told Bild. "And perhaps even changes in the U.S."
It's no surprise that Ballack is being linked with a MLS move now with his contract running out and the door seemingly shut on a Leverkusen return. Bild had no explanation for the Red Bulls link beyond the speculation of his joining MLS, but a move to New York would make sense. With Frank Rost gone, the Red Bulls do have an extra Designated Player spot that they could use to bring him in and now that Ballack could be available before his contract runs out, it just makes things easier on all parties involved.
Ballack is done at the Bay Arena and his exit could be earlier than originally anticipated. A MLS move has always seemed likely and this appears as good a time as any for the 35-year-old.