Kevin-Prince Boateng – the wandering star
In 2013, the entire AC Milan team followed Kevin-Prince Boateng as he stormed off the pitch in the face of racist chanting from opposing supporters. Michael Renouf profiles the fiery AC Monza forward.
Entering the world in Berlin on 6 May 1987, to a German mother, Christine Rahn, and a Ghanaian father, Prince Boateng, Kevin-Prince Boateng would go on to represent both countries at international level.
Boateng’s career has seen him constantly on the move and he is surely on first-name terms with many referees, having been carded so often – including several of the red variety.
After playing for Hertha Berlin reserves, he graduated to the first team, making his debut in the Bundesliga on 13 August 2005 in a 2-0 home victory over Eintracht Frankfurt, who became the first team he would score against in a return fixture, six months later.
It was November before he laid claim to his first start, in a 2-2 draw with Borussia Mönchengladbach. Two years later, in 2007, he moved to London’s Tottenham Hotspur and although Martin Jol signed him, he barely played for the Dutchman, making his Premier League debut when selected to start by Juande Ramos in his first game as Spurs manager, away to Middlesbrough in November.
His two years in London – which included a loan to Borussia Dortmund – were not a success (he was not even amongst the substitutes for the League Cup final), so it was no surprise when he left the club, moving to Portsmouth in August 2009, a side which had a mixed season, getting relegated and reaching a cup final.
Here he scored his first English Premier League goal in a defeat to Bolton. That April, in a meeting with previous employers Tottenham in the 2010 FA Cup semi-final, he converted a penalty to wrap up a 2-0 victory that meant Pompey (Portsmouth’s nickname) would return to Wembley in May to face Chelsea – a day when he would take centre-stage.
During the first half of the final, Germany’s Michael Ballack slapped Boateng, who a couple of minutes later got his revenge with a late tackle that meant the German captain would miss the upcoming World Cup. After the half-time break, Portsmouth were awarded a penalty. Boateng’s poor effort was saved by Petr Cech, shortly before Didier Drogba scored the only goal of the game, which meant the Londoners retained the trophy.
Slices of history
Boateng, who had represented Germany in several age groups, had changed his international allegiance to Ghana, although he would not actually make his debut for the land of his father until a 1-0 victory over Latvia in June 2010.
That summer at the South African World Cup, he was a vital part of Ghana’s run to the quarter-finals – including scoring his first goal for his country versus the USA. It was an adventure that would have surely continued and seen them become the first African nation to reach the last four, if not for recurring World Cup ‘villain’ Luis Suarez’s last-minute, last-ditch handball that prevented Ghana scoring the winning goal against Uruguay in extra time. Asamoah Gyan missed the penalty and Ghana went on to lose the penalty shoot-out.
Although this slice of history was cruelly stolen away, he did register one in the group-stage defeat to Germany. Brothers playing together at the World Cup is a common enough sight, but never before had they lined up on opposing sides until this game, with Jérôme Boateng representing Germany, a feat that would be repeated four years later in an enthralling 2-2 draw during the 2014 tournament.
In the land of pizza and pasta
After South Africa he found himself playing in Italy. He had been signed by Genoa but loaned to AC Milan, and in a successful debut season helped them to the Serie A title.
In August 2011, he netted the winner against fierce city rivals Inter to give Milan the Supercoppa Italiana, thus capturing his second Italian trophy. His first career hat-trick would come a couple of months later. With the Rossoneri (Milan) three goals down at the break to Lecce, Massimiliano Allegri made a change that altered the game beyond his wildest expectations. Within 18 minutes Kevin-Prince had netted three times, in a game that would end 4-3 in Milan’s favour.
After one more season in the land of pizza and pasta, he headed back to Germany but not before becoming the centre of attention once again, this time for the right reason.
In a friendly between Milan and Pro Patria, in the face of vile racist abuse, he led both teams as they walked off the field in protest and that year was named the United Nations ambassador for anti-racism.
He spent two seasons with Schalke 04 before returning to Milan, where he helped them to the final of the Coppa Italia, although he was an unused substitute as the Rossoneri were bettered by Juventus.
The 2016/17 season saw him not only at a new club but in a new country, playing for Las Palmas in Spain’s La Liga. Island life appeared to agree with him as he netted 10 times in 29 outings.
After just one season though, he returned to Germany, this time with Eintracht Frankfurt, and was part of a huge upset when they overcame the winning machine that is Bayern Munich 3-1 to claim the German Cup. Since then, he has turned out for Sassuolo, Barcelona, Fiorentina and Besiktas before landing at Serie B club Monza.
At his fourteenth club he has been reunited with former Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi – who seemed to forget his speech saying the team would be made up entirely of Italian players, all of whom would be clean-shaven and their skin unblemished by the work of tattoo artists.
Boateng is not Italian, has a beard and a multitude of tattoos – including one of Africa. In this town more famous for its racing circuit than any footballing deeds, the team is striving for promotion to Serie A for the first time. With these two at the club, along with Mario Balotelli, what could possibly go wrong?