Football is a truly magical game. It combines drama, tension, skill and passion all in bitesized segments of 90 minutes every few days.
But for all the beauty of football, there are very few players who wholly encapsulate all those things just in their very presence on the grass. However, as Milanisti, we were lucky to see just that in a man called Kevin-Prince Boateng.
The German-born Ghanian arrived at Milan in somewhat complicated circumstances; joining Genoa in August 2010 in a deal that was supposed to include full-back Anthony Vanden Borre but eventually didn’t, before Boateng then immediately moved on loan to the Rossoneri.
The deal eventually became a co-ownership in that same summer window for a reported fee of €5.25million, and he joined permanently the next summer for €7million on a four-year contract.
Having had previous spells with big clubs such as Hertha Berlin, Tottenham and Dortmund, nobody really knew what to expect from a 23-year-old Boateng.
By October of 2010, Milan fans had their answer. ‘KPB’ came on as a half-time substitute while the Rossoneri were 3-0 down at struggling Lecce, with coach Massimiliano Allegri throwing Boateng on to try and salvage the game.
He didn’t disappoint; scoring a 14-minute hat-trick to drag Milan level, becoming only the second player in the history of Serie A to score a hat-trick after coming on as a substitute. The Diavolo would go on to win the game 4-3 in a contest regarded as one of the all-time Serie A classics.
A 2014 profile on FIFA’s website described Boateng as a player: “blessed with strength, speed, killer instinct in front of goal, and an uncommon flamboyance in the attacking third” – and that is exactly what Milan began to see as he blossomed under the San Siro limelight.
A timeline of memories was to follow: from his Michael Jackson impression on stage after the 2010-11 Scudetto triumph to storming off the pitch following racist chanting by Pro Patria in a friendly match.
However, one thing ruled above all, and that was his ability to do something explosive on the pitch. In a Trofeo Berlusconi match against Juventus, Boateng showed tremendous technique to strike a volley sweetly from the left side of the box into the far right corner, bending the ball around a hopeless Gianluigi Buffon.
In the 4-0 triumph over Arsenal at San Siro, the Ghana international chested down a ball from Antonio Nocerino before unleashing fierce volley in off the crossbar past Wojciech Szczesny.
Against BATE Borisov, the Rossoneri were struggling against the so-called ‘whipping boys’ of the group, until the Prince won the game with a screamer from outside the area in the 70th minute – a peach of a strike that struck the crossbar and bounced into the roof of the net in the most satisfying of ways.
Who could forget his goal against Barcelona, too? Although Milan lost the game 3-2, Boateng sent San Siro into pandemonium when he brought down a clearance; sliding the ball through Eric Abidal with one sweet, skilful stroke before blasting past Victor Valdes at the near post.
And of course, Boateng scored the opening goal for Milan against Barcelona again in the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg; Muntari adding the second in what was a memorable night for Milanisti around the world.
His second spell at the club may not have been littered with the same glamour as the first, but it was a nice element of nostalgia in an otherwise bland season bereft of any real excitement.
There is one word to sum up Kevin-Prince Boateng: an entertainer – not just on the field, but off it too. Very few players light up football like KBP has, and it is absolutely no surprise that he is still a fan favourite among Milan supporters even to this day.
While he may have only scored 18 goals in his time in a Rossoneri shirt, it seems as if every single one was a memory. It is not often that a player is remembered for such dynamism; for being able to produce from nothing, and for making you never lose hope.
He always gave his best for the crest on the front of the shirt. For that, we remember the name on the back too, and I wish him the happiest of days on his 31st birthday.