Former German international Michael Ballack has admitted he regrets leaving Chelsea ten years ago and wishes he had retired at the west London club.
Ballack enjoyed a glittering career with Chelsea, winning the Premier League, two FA Cups, the League Cup and the Community Shield.
He was also part of the side which finished as runners-up in the Champions League to Manchester United in 2008.
He planned to end his career in the Premier League but Chelsea only offered him a one-year extension at the end of the 2009-10 season.
When his Stamford Bridge contract was up he wanted to stay an additional two years – but it was club policy to only allow players over the age of 30 to sign one-year extensions.
The west London club wouldn’t cave to Ballack’s demands so the German ace returned to Bayer Leverkusen – where he made his name – to see out the final two years of his career.
Speaking on Sky Sports’ Transfer Talk podcast, he said: “Carlo Ancelotti wanted me to stay but the club made a decision to only give players of that age a one-year contract. I wanted two.
“Today I can say maybe it was wrong, I should have stayed even for that one year.
“I could never imagine that I would go back to Bayer Leverkusen until the last day, I actually thought we would find a way at Chelsea.
“I was really hoping I could stay until the end.”
The German midfielder’s Chelsea career ended in heartbreaking fashion when he picked up an ankle injury in the 2010 FA Cup final win over Portsmouth.
That ruled him out of the World Cup in South Africa and effectively curtailed his international career.
Ballack failed to win back the captaincy and fight his way back into the Germany side.
The 43-year-old missed out on a major trophy with Leverkusen during his first spell in 2002 and appeared for the last time for the side in a 4-1 win over Nürnberg, leaving the field to a standing ovation.