Munich – FC Bayern München defender Jerome Boateng is not known for sudden outbursts of emotion, but in Sunday's 5-1 Klassiker victory over Borussia Dortmund even he could not help himself.
The 27-year-old set up Bayern's two most important goals of the evening: Thomas Müller's 26th-minute opener and Robert Lewandowski's strike to make it 3-1, and subsequently celebrated his assists as if he had scored himself.
On both occasions, he nullified Dortmund's high-pressing tactics with raking long balls forward, splitting the visiting defence with the precision of his passing. Yet speaking to journalists in the mixed zone at the Allianz Arena after the game, he was once again composed and matter-of-fact.
"Playing long balls up to Lewy [Lewandowski] has worked pretty well in the past and obviously I'm delighted it worked twice today," said Boateng, who admitted to practicing cross-field passes regularly in training. Lewandowski described his team-mate as "outstanding", while Müller said, "It's incredible to be able to open up the game like that as a centre-back."
Philipp Lahm also added his voice to the chorus of praise. "He's playing at an unbelievable level," the Bayern captain told FCB.tv. "He's come on a great deal in the last few years and is now an absolute pillar of our team." Despite being happy to hear such acclaim from his colleagues, Boateng refused to let it go to his head: "For me the most important thing is to perform well and to continue to improve."
There can be little doubt about his performance on Sunday. In addition to his two assists, Boateng had more touches of the ball (90) and completed more passes (66) than any other player on the pitch, and also won a huge 67 per cent of all tackles. It is little wonder that even when Medhi Benatia, Holger Badstuber and Javi Martinez are fit, Boateng is guaranteed a place at centre-back.
After Der Klassiker, Bayern coach Pep Guardiola gave an indication as to why that is, saying that in addition to his defensive qualities, "when it comes to build-up play, Jerome is one of the best players around."
The Berlin native is equally appreciative of his boss, and attributes much of his development since joining from Manchester City in 2011 to Guardiola. "He lives for football and always sees areas where you can improve," Boateng said. "For example, I've become a lot calmer out on the pitch." Calm, but with the occasional outburst.