BERLIN (AP) — Fourteen years after leaving Hertha Berlin on an odyssey through teams in England, Spain, Italy and Turkey, Prince Boateng is back at his hometown club for possibly the final chapter in a colorful career.
The 34-year-old former Ghana international rejoined Hertha in the offseason to help the “Old Lady” recover from years of underachievement and make good on the promise delivered by backer Lars Windhorst’s $450 million investment.
“I’m the boss, in a good way,” Boateng told journalists in a video call this week. “I’m a good boss. I listen, I talk. I help, I’m the joker, I’m the singer. I do everything, but I’m the boss.”
The soccer artist formerly known as Kevin-Prince Boateng prefers to go by just Prince for his first name now.
Hertha’s new head of sport Fredi Bobic signed the veteran forward for his experience. Bobic already knew Boateng from their successful time together at Eintracht Frankfurt. Hertha’s other summer signings were mostly young promising inexperienced players.
“I’ve always said that my experience helped me a lot, because there are so many things I see, that I’ve been through before,” said Boateng, a combative player who has also played abroad for Barcelona, Las Palmas, Besiktas, Sassuolo, Fiorentina, Milan, Tottenham and Portsmouth, as well as Schalke and Borussia Dortmund in Germany.
“I’m always proud of myself if I can help someone reach a level they didn’t believe they could reach,” said Boateng, who said he helped Italy midfielder Manuel Locatelli during their time together at Sassuolo. “Now he’s in Juventus, he’s one of the best midfielders, because he was intelligent to listen.”
Boateng said he helped Dortmund midfielder Marius Wolf when they were together at Frankfurt, and that he’s doing the same now with Hertha players Marco Richter and Maxi Mittelstädt.
“These guys, to be honest, when I arrived, they were kind of shy. They didn’t know what to do. Now, they even get a little bit arrogant. So I have to bring them down a little bit, but I like that because now they start to believe in themselves.”
Boateng has been used sparingly by Hertha coach Pál Dárdai, while injuries have also reduced his impact so far. It’s been a bumpy start for both the player and the team, which is laboring in 13th place in the 18-team Bundesliga with a third of the season played.
Hertha lost its first three league games, including a 5-0 rout at Bayern Munich.
“It happens,” Boateng said. “Bayern Munich is one of the biggest clubs in the world. But afterwards, you have to come out with your chest wide open and say, listen, this can happen to anyone. So that’s the only thing. We’ve got to be strong enough to not get scared of the past because the past is past. We only have the future in front of us.”
Hertha bounced back with two wins over the promoted teams before a 6-0 thrashing at Leipzig posed more questions.
The team next plays at city rival Union Berlin, whose promotion in 2019 and good showing since contrasts sharply with Hertha’s travails over the same period. Hertha worked its way through four coaches before Dárdai’s return last season.
“There’s only one big club in Berlin, and that’s us,” said Boateng, who nonetheless had words of praise for Union. “This team had a good run for two years now. They’re playing great football, they had some success, which is good because they’re working hard and it’s a simpatico club. It’s an OK club, but the big club is Hertha Berlin.”
Boateng’s job is to help ensure that Hertha finally lives up to that billing.
“I’m overwhelmed that I could come back home so that that’s already an achievement for me, one where I can say, I’m happy with that,” he said. “Whatever minutes I get, whatever chance I get to score a goal, whatever chance I get to help the team to let it play and grow in my experience, I’m happy with that.”
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP
Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.