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Jerome Boateng on the bench at the German Cup fina
Image: Imago Images/MIS/B. Feil

'Out of place' Boateng faces new challenge

May 26, 2019

As Bayern Munich celebrated another domestic double, club President Uli Hoeness suggested the 30-year-old defender begin to look for a new club. After eight successful years, where does this leave Jerome Boateng?

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Amid all of the celebrations in Berlin's Olympiastadion after Bayern Munich had secured their 12th domestic double on Saturday, Jerome Boateng was nowhere to be seen. While his teammates cheered with Bayern fans in the crowd, he headed off to the changing room. These were not the actions of a contented player. 

A day later, Bayern President Uli Hoeness said that Boateng was "out of place at the moment" and that it was time for him to leave the club. The writing has been on the wall for a while but it now seems Boateng will be moving on, bringing a roller-coaster eight-year spell to an end.

As a player who had wished for a different end to his international career, Boateng will probably be left feeling the same about his time at Bayern Munich. He's stayed largely fit this season but struggled to find a way past Niko Kovac's preferred defensive partnership of Niklas Süle and Mats Hummels. Süle's improvement has been impressive, and Hummels' is evidently the favored partner, with the German Cup final selection confirming that still further. Nevertheless, in a squad with only three natural central defenders, Boateng's decline in playing time has been telling.

From jack of all trades to master of one

Having arrived at Bayern as a utility defender, Boateng grew into a ball-playing center back with an excellent sense of timing in the tackle. He was an integral part of the 2013 treble-winning team and a year later was formidable in the World Cup final as he confirmed his spot as one of the best defenders in the world by helping Germany to victory over Argentina .

Fußball WM Finale Argentinien Deutschland
Jerome Boateng was at his best in the 2014 World Cup finalImage: Reuters

A year later, Lionel Messi got his revenge in a Champions League semifinal, leaving Boateng on the ground and at the (non-existent) mercy of Twitter memes. Perhaps that, in a cruel way, was the turning point for Boateng. Injuries plagued him in the seasons that followed, which made good form hard to establish. That time away left the door open for Bayern to invest in the future and, sadly for Boateng, that future quickly became the present.

Boateng's interest in fashion, glasses and the launch of his magazine 'Boa', haven't gone down well with everyone, but Boateng has publicly slammed what he perceives to be the misinterpretation of his off-field interests.

On the Podkinski Podcast, Boateng said that it just wasn't true that his interests meant he no longer cared for football. He said he was wearing the same things in the stands in 2014 as he does today, and asked what the difference was. "If a player has jewelry or a cool car, people in Germany are instantly jealous," Boateng said.

There's no denying that Boateng is keen to do more than just be a footballer. He is managed by Roc Nation, a company that "focuses on elevating athletes' career on a global scale both on and off the field." There is nothing wrong with that, in fact in many ways he has been more proactive about genuinely building a brand than many. But the manner in which he has gone about it has rubbed some up the wrong way.

What's next for German great?

In a sense, it's not just Boateng's off-field choices that have been misunderstood but most of his career. After a dramatic rise at Hertha Berlin and then Hamburg, Boateng arrived at Manchester City as the future of Germany's defense. But the lack of clarity about whether right back or center back was his best position - as well as injuries - meant his development stagnated.

Boateng's roller-coaster took an upward turn with the move to Bayern. Now, eight years later, his next step remains unclear. Will he move to Italy, and shake off the suggestion that his lack of pace and poor tackling are what's preventing his return to form? Or will a career filled with such glory end on a much quieter note than it should? One thing is for sure, Boateng's career deserves greater recognition than being pushed out the back door - especially before it ends.

Once one of the best defenders in the world, Boateng, a black man born in Germany's capital, went on to not only captain his country but also win a World Cup. He is one of the great German players, and while he hasn't made as prolonged an impact as Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, much of Bayern's success in the last eight years couldn't have been achieved without him.

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