Kevin-Prince Boateng is home, 5,149 days after his last appearance for Hertha, which was a 2-1 win at Eintracht Frankfurt on 19th May 2007, with Boateng scoring the opening goal. The 20-year-old came off for ‘Zecke’ Neuendorf after an hour that day and his old teammate is now his new assistant coach. Boateng also shared the pitch for Hertha with current head coach Pál Dárdai and sporting director Arne Friedrich. The return of the 34-year-old midfielder is not just exciting for football romantics. “To be honest, I can’t really believe it. The idea of returning one day properly entered my mind about six years ago and now I’m back! I think it’ll only sink in when I’m on the training ground and back wearing the Hertha shirt. It’s such a great feeling!” said an excited Boateng, who will wear the number 27. “Hertha BSC isn’t just any old club for me. I’m here to give something back!” In his first interview with herthabsc.com, Boateng discussed the conversations with the club, his aims and expectations, as well as a special tattoo.
herthabsc.com: Prince, welcome home, welcome back to Hertha BSC! Tell us, how are you feeling right now?
Boateng: To be honest, I can’t really believe it. The idea of returning one day properly entered my mind about six years ago and now I’m back! I think it’ll only sink in when I’m on the training ground and back wearing the Hertha shirt. It’s such a great feeling!
herthabsc.com: Who did you discuss the move with?
Boateng: I spoke to my older brother George, who is a Berliner through and through. I asked him if he’d like me to return home and he said it’d be the best possible thing I could do for him.
herthabsc.com: After 14 years away, you’ve made a return to the club where you started at, to the delight of many fans. What does this move mean to you?
Boateng: Hertha BSC isn’t just any old club for me. I’m here to give something back! I’ve been to many places over the years and learnt a lot, but I have this club to thank for for my career. I never forgot where I came from and Hertha has always had a place in my heart. I never lost contact and I always watched as many games as possible, even though I didn’t know many people involved at times. The club has been through a difficult period, but thankfully Pál, 'Zecke’ and Arne have come back. They are true Herthaner, who bleed blue and white, and are important characters that fully embody what this club is about. They can show the team what it means to wear the Hertha shirt.
[>]If they had all said that I’m a complete idiot, then I wouldn’t be here. I must have left a good impression on them. They trust that I can help the club and team out in my own way.[<]
herthabsc.com: You had a successful time in Frankfurt with Fredi Bobic and played with the aforementioned trio previously at Hertha. How helpful was this connection during contract discussions?
Boateng: If they had all said that I’m a complete idiot, then I wouldn’t be here. I must have left a good impression on them. They trust that I can help the club and team out in my own way. I’m really pleased about that because, to be honest, that wasn’t always the case. I was wild when I was young, which everyone knows, but I’ve been a grown man for a while now and know exactly what matters now.
herthabsc.com: What’s important at the ‘Old Lady’? How can you help the team?
Boateng: I want to help the club with my footballing skills. Giving 100% and playing with passion and desire is such a cliché. If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be playing football anymore. I want to experience special moments with the Hertha fans, provide them with amazing memories and have fun in the stadium! A relegation battle isn’t fun, it’s a struggle. I want to help push the younger players – they should be confident and brash, but still all know what the badge on the chest means. I have other strengths too. I know how to lead a team and how to deal with a changing room. I’ve met all kinds of players during my career.
herthabsc.com: You’ve not only got a place for Hertha in your heart now...
Boateng: ...but also on my chest. It really hurt a lot, but it’s a symbol of my connection to Hertha. It was just fate that that spot was still free. After all, everything happens for a reason. The tattoo shows that this club and this city are my home.
[>]I haven’t come to Hertha as Prince Boateng the diva and superstar, who needs to play every single game. I’m here to give something back to the club.[<]
herthabsc.com: Let’s talk about the first meeting with the club. What did you speak about?
Boateng: I haven’t come to Hertha as Prince Boateng the diva and superstar, who needs to play every single game. I’m here to give something back to the club. If the coach picks me, then I’ll play. If he doesn’t, then I want to help the young players. We’ve got several young, talented lads who I want to help develop. I think they will respect me enough to listen to me and follow what I do. Pál knows he can trust me and then I can help the players head in the right direction. So many emotions came flooding back when I turned down Hans-Braun-Straße for the first time again. So much here has changed and the club has grown. We need to take these opportunities we’ve got. I ran around the place as a kid, then I saw the world. Now I’m back!
herthabsc.com: After a tough season, Hertha want to get back on track. Why do you believe this will happen?
Boateng: There are many reasons. One is having Fredi on board. His experience and ability to develop a project will help us, we saw what he can do in Frankfurt. Eintracht became a real major force in German football during his time there and he’ll try to replicate that here. Keeping Pál is another reason after what he did last season. Also, the Prince is back (laughs).
herthabsc.com: This transfer had been rumoured for a number of days. What do you think when you read headlines like ‘the lost son returns home’?
Boateng: We all know that I’m not a normal player. I bring a certain hype and glamour with me because I’ve had a good career and I’m known as an eccentric guy. Even though I’ve not always had the best reputation in Germany, Berlin has always loved me and I’ve loved Berlin back. Us Berliners know that different rules apply to people here. Everything else doesn’t interest me. I’m coming home and my home is Berlin and Hertha BSC.
herthabsc.com: Born in Wedding, you’ve played football in many countries around the world, including top clubs in almost all major leagues (Tottenham in England, AC Milan in Italy, FC Barcelona in Spain). Which spell shaped you the most?
Boateng: I became a man during my time in Milan. I realised what it meant to be a professional footballer. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have played a single minute in that team full of absolute superstars. I became a key player there and won my first major trophy as well. There were a lot of family men and married men in that squad and I learnt from them how to have a stabile life outside of football.
[>]For example, from Zlatan I learnt what it means to be a professional. I became calmer on the ball thanks to Pirlo.[<]
herthabsc.com: You’ve also played alongside some incredible names over the years, including Messi, Zlatan and even Mario Balotelli. How was it playing with these guys?
Boateng: I am who I am. I don’t try to copy anyone, but rather people copy me – which I like. I did obviously pick up some things, though. For example, from Zlatan I learnt what it means to be a professional. He’s been one of the best strikers in the world for so long because he spends so much time in the weights room and works incredibly hard. You can’t learn much from Messi as you’ll never reach his level! I became calmer on the ball thanks to Pirlo. You will always learn things when you play alongside world-class players. During my role as a pundit for EURO 2020, I realised that I have played with 31 players at the tournament. I didn’t pick up anything from Balotelli, though (winks).
herthabsc.com: Your first Bundesliga game came in August 2005 for Hertha against Frankfurt. Your last was in May 2007, but who was it against?
Boateng: Also Frankfurt! I scored my first Bundesliga goal against Eintracht as well.
herthabsc.com: You also won the DFB-Pokal in 2018 with the Eagles at the Olympiastadion. I think we all know what will happen when the fixtures come out on Friday...
Boateng: Hertha vs. Frankfurt on matchday 1, definitely! I’ve got a great connection to Frankfurt after my year there. I’m looking forward to seeing them again, their fans too. It will be an emotional one.
herthabsc.com: You must also be looking forward to your first Berlin derby too?
Boateng: I’m going to be honest, it’s a bit overhyped for me. A derby grows over years. They’ve got their fame now and you have to respect their performances. But Hertha is Hertha and we’ve been ahead of them for decades. We don’t have to be intimidated by them. All clubs have highs and lows. Berlin is still blue and white and will remain that way.