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The Ghanaian's hat-trick off the bench against Lecce was extraordinary, but it's just the latest example of what an impact he truly has on the champions on and off the field

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By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor

Sunday’s clash between Lecce and AC Milan at Stadio Via del Mare was no ordinary Serie A match. With news of the death of Italian Moto GP rider and Milanista Marco Simoncelli having been announced less than two hours before kick-off, this was always going to be an emotionally-charged game. But it was Kevin-Prince Boateng who was to be the man of the moment for the Rossoneri, and while his 14-minute hat-trick after coming off the bench was a feat he is never likely to repeat, it was just another example of the Ghanaian’s continued importance to the Serie A champions.

LONG LIVE THE PRINCE

 MILAN WITH BOATENG (full 90 minutes)
GAMES PLAYED
GAMES WON
GAMES DRAWN
GAMES LOST
GOALS SCORED
WIN PERCENTAGE
GOALS PER GAME
14
8
6
0
27
57.1%
1.93

 ALL OTHER GAMES SINCE SUMMER '10
GAMES PLAYED
GAMES WON
GAMES DRAWN
GAMES LOST
GOALS SCORED
WIN PERCENTAGE
GOALS PER GAME

47
26
11
10
73
55.3%
1.55

Three goals down at the break, the Rossoneri looked completely at sea. Without any kind of defensive organisation, they allowed the Salentini to rack up as many goals in 45 minutes as they’d managed in their six previous games this season. Needing to regain authority and a game-breaking spark, Milan may usually have looked to Zlatan Ibrahimovic for inspiration, but this was destined to be a different kettle of fish.

The Swede had been quiet enough in the first half to suggest that the je ne sais quoi would have to come from elsewhere. Last season at the same ground he had opened the scoring thanks to a swivel shot from distance that many still watch daily on YouTube. But this particular pickle called for Boateng.

The former Portsmouth midfielder has form when it comes to being Milan’s man of the hour. With his dynamic, all-action style, he has been a fantastic addition to the Rossoneri midfield, adding a dimension which no other player on the club’s roster can boast.

Many still put Milan's elimination from the Champions League last season down to the fact that Boateng missed their last-16 first leg defeat to Tottenham at San Siro. His performance in the return game only served to bolster that opinion, helping to transform a lifeless Milan from the home leg into a determined, driven outfit at White Hart Lane, despite not being fully fit.

And that display is only an example. He has put in big shows for his side on numerous other occasions, not least when grabbing the winner in August’s Supercoppa clash with Inter in Beijing. But there are a couple of remarkable stats to go with Boateng’s impact on the pitch too.

First, Milan have won every game in which the Ghanaian has scored for them. While that may only extend to six matches, it is still a mark of his ability to sway a game. And secondly, the Rossoneri have never lost when Boateng has played the full 90 minutes. Although this record was preserved by his late sending-off against Juventus earlier this month, it is nonetheless a measure of what his addition to the team over the course of a game can really add.

BOATENG'S MILAN GOALS
2010-11
December 4, 2010
Brescia (h) WON 3-0
1 goal
December 12, 2010
Bologna (a) WON 3-0
1 goal
February 28, 2011
Napoli (h) WON 3-0
1 goal
2011-12
August 6, 2011
Inter (Beijing) WON 2-1
1 goal
October 19, 2011
BATE Borisov (h) WON 2-0
1 goal
October 23, 2011
Lecce (a) WON 4-3
 3 goals

He has quickly become one of the club’s key components, adding a brash, bold edge that only Ibrahimovic can really match. Performances like Sunday’s are the stuff of champions, and his energy, desire, determination, cockiness, attitude and even the 'Moonwalking' are all just part of his appealing demeanour. You only have to watch that title-winning celebration dance back to see the reaction of his colleagues. His attitude and winning mentality are infectious.

Again, at Lecce, the full-time whistle was immediately greeted by his contemporaries showing their thanks and appreciation. They love the guy, and the stats suggest they play with an extra cocky swagger themselves when he is in the team, and he is expected to return to the starting XI this evening against Parma at San Siro.

Boateng may well have arrived at Milan without any real kind of track record last summer, but he is now a vital piece of the club’s title jigsaw. His bosses, his team-mates, and his ego, wouldn’t have it any other way.

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