In those years on the road, the Berlin-born midfielder evidently matured from one-time problem child at hometown club Hertha into "a true leader, someone who can really whip up the team," in the words of sporting director Horst Heldt. By his own more modest admission, Boateng is simply looking to "perform as well as I can and help the younger players."
Chequered early career
As a youngster himself, he was one of the country's outstanding up-and-coming prospects, turning out for Germany at every level from U-15 to U-21. Boateng swapped one capital for another when Tottenham Hotspur signed him up in the summer of 2007. The gifted, hard-tackling midfielder never really made a sustained breakthrough with the London club, however, and 18 months later he returned to the Bundesliga for a half-season loan at Jürgen Klopp's Dortmund.
A permanent move fell through on financial grounds and Boateng moved on to Portsmouth FC for an eventful season that ended with the embattled south coast club relegated from the Premier League and narrowly beaten by Chelsea in the FA Cup final. He missed a penalty in that game, as well as dishing out the injury that would rule Germany captain Michael Ballack out of the FIFA World Cup finals that summer. Boateng, meanwhile, got to participate in the tournament in South Africa, having received FIFA clearance to play for Ghana, his father's country of birth, in the nick of time.
Talent to the fore
AC Milan was the midfielder's next stop, by way of Genoa CFC, who had signed him up and sent him out immediately on an initial loan agreement with an option to purchase. Milan did just that after Boateng helped them to the Serie A title in his first season at the San Siro, and over the course of the next couple of years he blossomed into one of the Italian league's most influential midfielders. Having spent much of his early career out on the flanks, he gradually shifted first into a more central holding role and then a more attacking one, symbolised by his being given the No10 shirt in what would prove his final season at Milan.
When Schalke came calling, Boateng jumped at the chance to return to what he described at his unveiling as "the best league in the world." For their part, the Royal Blues sprang just as high to bring on board a player Klopp once described as having "a hundred different ways of controlling the ball and dozens of options for beating an opponent."
With his brother Jerome turning out regularly for record title-holders FC Bayern München, there are now two Boatengs on the Bundesliga beat.