Ballack targets injury-free 2011
Michael Ballack has vowed to get back to his best next year after an injury-plagued 2010 left him spending too much time in the treatment room.
The Germany captain's woes started in May when a tough tackle from Kevin-Prince Boateng in the FA Cup final resulted in an ankle injury which ruled him out of the World Cup.
He fought his way back to fitness over the summer and made his second debut for Bayer Leverkusen before another robust challenge, this time from Hannover's Sergio Pinto, saw him sidelined again with a broken shin and torn ligaments.
The 34-year-old is now stepping up his latest rehabilitation and aims to be back on the pitch come the start of the second half of the Bundesliga season in mid-January.
From the moment he returns to the field, he will be bidding to put his injury nightmare behind him and get back to doing what he does best.
"I hope that I remain fit next year," he told Germany's Express newspaper. "Then you will see when I get back to my best.
"I am coming back and want to be training fully with the team again on January 3."
Without Ballack, Leverkusen have charged to second in the Bundesliga and into the last 32 of the Europa League and the former Chelsea midfielder has high hopes for the rest of the season.
"We want to qualify for the Champions League and of course I want to be part of it and help the team," he added.
Ballack has pencilled in January 14 for a possible return in a top-of-the-table clash with the current leaders Borussia Dortmund.