From Barcelona To Berlusconi: Kevin-Prince Boateng's Crazy Career
Few football careers have been crazier than that of Kevin-Prince Boateng.
The past 18 months have epitomised the attacker's rollercoaster ride, as he went from being a shock Barcelona signing in January 2019 to securing a move to Serie B side Monza last month.
Boateng's entire career has been just as turbulent, with the former Germany youth international unable to harness his full potential, resulting in him jumping regularly from one club to the next.
Beginning his career in the Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin, Boateng was voted Germany's best young player in 2006 before sealing a transfer to Tottenham in 2007.
The move to White Hart Lane arguably came too soon for the then 20-year-old, who had his head turned by his sizeable pay packets.
“I’ll go back and say: I didn’t treat football as a job. I was an idiot. I had talent, but I trained the bare minimum, an hour on the field. I was the last to arrive and the first to leave. I’d be out with friends," Boateng told La Repubblica in 2019.
"I had money, I lived like a king. I’d never been to the gym. That changes your later career. I bought three cars in one day when I was at Tottenham: a Lamborghini, a Hummer and a Cadillac.
"To the youngsters, I tell them: ‘You cannot buy happiness.’ I didn’t play, I had family problems, I was out of the squad. I was looking for happiness in material things: a car makes you happy for a week. I bought three to be happy for three weeks.”
Despite those off-field issues, Boateng still managed to turn heads on the training pitch at Tottenham, with Darren Bent struck by just how much confidence the young attacker possessed at such a young age.
“I remember him scoring this absolute 'worldie' goal from about 35 yards, a volley, and he screamed out at the top of his voice, ‘How does this guy not play?’ He was talking about himself!" Bent told talkSPORT.
In search of more game time, Boateng left Tottenham in the winter of 2009 for Borussia Dortmund, where, during a six-month loan, he showed more glimpses of his potential under the guidance of Jurgen Klopp.
Unfortunately, the Germans did not have sufficient funds sign Boateng on a permanent transfer, leaving both the player and his coach devastated.
"Had Dortmund qualified for Europe at the time, they would have bought me," Boateng told Goal and DAZN last year.
“Klopp called me personally and told me that they couldn't resolve the situation. I was very sad about that and the normally tough Prince cried.
“At the time, I guessed that something big could happen in Dortmund, so I wanted to stay. But it wasn't meant to happen. For Klopp, I would even have gone to China!”
Boateng would eventually return to the Premier League with Portsmouth, who were relegated at the end of a remarkable 2009-10 season in which they also lost a dramatic FA Cup final to Chelsea.
However, he had done enough at Fratton Park to secure himself a switch to Serie A. Boateng was, ostensibly, signed by Genoa, but he never played a game for the Ligurians, who immediately passed him on to AC Milan.
It was at San Siro that Boateng shone brightest.
There was a 14-minute hat-trick against Lecce, a Champions League goal against Barcelona and even a Michael Jackson tribute – replete with a single white glove, a black hat and a sparkly jacket – during Milan's Scudetto celebrations at the end of the 2010-11 campaign.
In 2013, his former club Schalke came calling and despite initially strong performances, the attacker's time back in Bundesliga would end in disappointing fashion two years later with his contract terminated following a suspension for poor behaviour.
Milan would hand him a lifeline, welcoming him back to Italy, but his second spell would not go as well as his first, and he was released after six months.
Boateng reminded everyone of his enduring talent with 10 goals for lowly Las Palmas during the 2016-17 season and, after spending the following year at Eintracht Frankfurt, he was reborn as a 'false nine' at Sassuolo.
His fine form in this new position ultimately earned him a move to Barcelona, who were desperately looking for a back-up forward during the 2019 January transfer window.
Given Boateng's history of allegedly 'bad' behaviour, the move stunned Blaugrana supporters but then-coach Ernesto Valverde had an open mind about the shock loan deal.
"We trust in the presumption of innocence," the Barca boss told reporters. "We do not want to fight with him, but want him to help us and to score goals."
However, Boateng would go to spend most of his time on the Camp Nou bench, as he made just five appearances in all competitions, though he did, at least, depart with a La Liga title to his name.
“It was a lovely experience in Barcelona, working with the best in the world, but it wasn’t very satisfying," Boateng later admitted. "At my age, it was worth it, as at least I can say that I played at Camp Nou alongside Lionel Messi."
The 2019-20 season then saw him kick things off with Fiorentina, before he made another winter move, this time joining Turkish giants Besiktas.
Having played for seven clubs in the space of just six years, Boateng's value clearly took a hit and in September this year he agreed a one-year deal with Serie B side Monza.
Despite being just 33, the move isn't all that surprising considering the bizarre path Boateng's career has followed.
He will link up with former Milan owner and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, now the Monza owner, and ex-sporting director Adriano Galliani, while the team is coached by Cristian Brocchi, a two-time Champions League winner with the Rossoneri.
But for a player of so much potential, it's clear he could have achieved a lot more had he remained more focused.
"Mentality is crucial in football. I started too late to really think about [my career]. Of course, I regret that," Boateng told Goal and DAZN in 2019.
"As an 18-year-old, I would have needed an agent or a family to push me in the right direction. I would have liked that. But I had to fix everything myself.
"I know very well that I have also failed with my motivation, which has not always been 100 per cent there.
"If I would have had the absolute will, I would have been a starting XI player at Barcelona or would have played 10 years for Real Madrid or Manchester United.”