Jerome Boateng is now one of a trio of world-class centre-backs at Bayern Munich, but as the Germany international prepares for Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League encounter with Besiktas JK, he has admitted there were times he thought he would never make it big in the beautiful game.
With Boateng set in a star-encrusted Bayern squad along with Mats Hummels and Niklas Süle, the Bundesliga leader's boss, Jupp Heynckes, is spoilt for choice as he ponders his line-up for Tuesday's Last 16 first-leg tie at the Allianz Arena.
Boateng is now royally used to such regal occasions having won a treasure trove of silverware that includes five Bundesliga titles, three DFB Cups and a UEFA Champions League since joining Bayern from Manchester City in 2011.
Watch: Boateng keeps his daughters happy with a rare goal on Matchday 20!
The switch back to Germany marked the end of a testing period in Boateng's career with his transfer to England derailed by a series of injuries that left the world-class defender wondering whether he would become the star everyone expected him to be.
"This was my dream and I worked hard for it," Boateng explained. "Of course there were situations when I thought it wasn't going to work out the way I wanted.
"I had injuries — even when I was younger I had problems with my back. I had to grow up very fast. So the key point is that you have to believe in yourself and of course you have to be on point when you get the chance. As a young player, you have to perform."
After giving hints of the talent that convinced City to invest in him, Boateng did just that at Bayern, blossoming in Bavaria. The 29-year-old made his 150th Bundesliga appearance for the record German champions in the Matchday 21 win at Mainz, and would surely have had many more but for the injuries that have pockmarked his career.
Still, Boateng acknowledged to Deutsche Welle that, had he not resisted the temptations offered by his hometown, Berlin, growing up, he would never have come close to the success he has achieved.
"Your friends want to go out at night, they want to have fun, girls... But this is the time when you have to focus," said Boateng, whose twin daughters, Soley and Lamia, born in 2011, caused him to grow up quickly.
"Fatherhood has changed my whole life. When you have two daughters you are complete. The whole day changes for you. It's a lot about them, how you act, how you feel and when they were born, it's a completely new situation. Of course sometimes you have to say: 'No, this isn't right.' But I always wanted to be a young father and I am very proud of them."
Passion for fashion
They are undoubtedly too, even if they "always say 'you have to score more often'" to their father, world-renowned for the destructive — not creative — arts of the game. The flair that lies within Boateng is mostly expressed off the pitch where his name has helped him indulge his passion for fashion.
Working with musician Jay-Z and his Roc Nation label, the former Hertha Berlin and Hamburg man has developed a range of spectacles while also continuing his near-lifelong flirtation with his other love: footwear.
"My mother always told me you can open a shop," joked Boateng over his sizeable collection of shoes. "It started when I was 13 or 14 years old. 'Oh those shoes, I want to have them in different colours,' I thought. And then it started. I can't stop. I still love shoes, I love sneakers."
To Russia with Löw
Once the Bundesliga season is all tied up, Boateng will not be swapping his studs for sneakers immediately. Though he has plans for a maiden visit to Ghana, the country of his father's birth, next summer, he will first be heading to Russia.
Watch: Boateng is a shoo-in, but others can still snatch a surprise Germany squad place
While Süle may also play a part, it is certain Boateng and Hummels will - if fit - form the spine of the Germany team aiming to win back-to-back FIFA World Cups.
"You're always excited before the World Cup," explained the Bayern man, a member of Joachim Löw's squad that lifted football's ultimate prize in Brazil four years ago. "Of course we'll try to win it again, but it will be very hard. We have a good young team. A good mix of young players and some older players, so I'm looking forward to it."