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Kevin Prince Boateng - Milan

The return of KP Boateng: Time to dine with the ‘devil’

Kevin Prince Boateng - Milan

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With the imminent return of the German-born Ghanaian who only just rescinded his retirement decision, Goal assesses the player's past, present and future with the Black Stars

FEATURE
By Kwesii Asomadu

In the movie “Constantine”, starring Keanu Reeves, a powerful tag-line runs through. Summed up, it rends: “Hell wants him. Heaven won't take him. Earth needs him.”

In the movie, Constantine (played by Reeves) is a chain-smoking cynical individual with the ability to perceive the true visage of half-angels and half-demons and also possesses the ability to exorcise demons. Eventually, Constantine is condemned to Hell for committing suicide - a mortal sin.

BACK FOR GOOD? | The Prince says he's now available for Black Stars games

If ever there was a footballer whose career defines the quoted tag-line, it probably would be Kevin-Prince Boateng. The 26-year-old's personalised version would likely read, “AC Milan want him. Germany won’t take him. Ghana need him.”

As irony would have it, Milan - the Italian club Boateng plays for - are nicknamed I Diavolo (The Devil).
Why Germany Won’t Take Him
Growing up in Berlin, Boateng proved the bad boy of German football. A part of the multi-cultural 'golden generation' in that country, young Boateng was involved in the infamous 'car mirror' incident where he, along with his Hertha Berlin team-mate Patrick Ebert, made negative headlines all over Germany by kicking side-mirrors off parked cars after a late-night drunken bout.

Another unfortunate occurrence in 2010 saw his infamy in Germany rocket straight through the roof. In that year's English FA Cup final between Portsmouth and Chelsea, the midfielder’s rash and reckless tackle on Michael Ballack ended the German captain’s hopes of playing at the World Cup that was due merely weeks later. And while Boateng's effort might not have been exactly as terrible as Roy Keane's on Alf-Inge Haaland that ended the Norwegian's career in 2001, there indeed was a back story to it.

My knee has suffered six injuries and six surgeries. It gives me pain on flights due to pressure changes. So I have to say goodbye to Ghana because I am keen on my health


- Boateng
German newspaper Bild screamed a “Revenge Attack" headline, apparently alluding to the fact that Kevin had only recently switched national allegiances from Germany to Ghana at the time. Quite incidentally, the two countries had been planted in the same group at the Mundial. Again, the two players had had a little argument only four years prior which Kevin Boateng’s father explained in an interview he granted: “[In 2006] Kevin had just scored his first goal for Hertha [Berlin]. Then they played against Bayern Munich. He had an argument with Ballack.

"Ballack said to him: 'You've scored one goal, and you think you are the best'. Kevin has never forgotten that. Unfortunately, Kevin isn't very diplomatic. But I am sure, even if he did foul Ballack, he didn't mean to injure him."

Germany, of course, did not see it that way.
Why Ghana need him
After nine caps and a goal, the midfielder broke the hearts of the hordes of fans who had fallen in love with his performances at the World Cup. He seemed everything the Ghanaian midfield needed during Michael Essien’s absence. His tireless running, coupled with the attacking brain and genuine quality he possessed, forced opponents to draw up strategies for him earned Boateng deserved comparisons with the Chelsea ace.

Much like the Chelsea man, however, Boateng's commitment to the Black Stars cause was quite dodgy. His (Boateng's) inclination to pick and choose games was something that clearly angered all of Ghana.

Then came the bombshell: the announcement of his retirement.

The excuse that accompanied it was that after so many knee surgeries he could combine international football with club duties no longer.

While his performances on the field will be what would get him back into the good books of Ghanaians soon, he should also apologise to all he hurt with his premature retirement decision.

"My knee has suffered six injuries and six surgeries. It gives me pain on flights due to pressure changes," he revealed in a chat with Vanity Fair in 2011, before adding, "so I have to say goodbye to Ghana because I am keen on my health."

Like Essien, he had put his club career ahead of the national team. Across the land these words reverberated and
"If he does get call-up to resume activity for Ghana, he will need all the powers of Constantine to exorcise his own demons that continue to render him a deeply flawed genius"
was interpreted as an act of betrayal, especially after his brief spell with the Black Stars had helped raise his stock.

It is easy to describe footballers as unpatriotic when they seek to preserve themselves for a lengthier club career yet the truth remains that the latter ultimately propels them to do great things for their countries. Yes, there probably is more to the issue than came out at the time of his retirement, but even on the surface, battling back from so many injuries yet continuing to perform well should not be taken lightly. His excuse was easily brushed aside as unsatisfactory as his impressive performances and subsequent exit seemed to paint a picture of a guy who was only interested in the big games and showpiece events. His image was of the guy who wished to walk on the moon but wanted nothing to do with helping to build the space shuttle that would get himself and the rest of the crew there.

Now, after two full years, 'the Prince' informs us through a 52-word strong letter that he has changed his mind and is available for national duties.

His ability to play in more than one role in midfield means he is a welcome addition to the team ahead of the Zambia game. A proven match-winner, Kevin-Prince Boateng does greatly improve the pool of talent at the disposal of Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah.

Many fans regard his return as well calculated as the next World Cup approaches. For the game against Zambia and the potential play-off date that could be secured, though, the Black Stars need as much committed quality as can be summoned. While his performances on the field will be what would get him back into the good books of Ghanaians soon, he should also apologise to all he hurt with his premature retirement decision.

If he does get call-up to resume activity for Ghana, he will need all the powers of Constantine to exorcise his own demons that continue to render him a deeply flawed genius. 

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