And so it would seem. Peerless at the back as part of an unfamiliar defensive pairing with new signing and debutant Medhi Benatia, Boateng also showed Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller and Co. how it was done at the other end. “It came to me and I just thought, “I’m whacking this in”. It was pure joy,” the goalscorer said after the UEFA Champions League encounter.
Only getting better
That it came against one of his former clubs in Man City may have made the goal all the sweeter and contributed to the 26-year-old’s emotional celebration, but far more significant in his coach’s view was that this was further confirmation of Boateng’s omnipotence as a player and his potential to affirm himself as a world-class defender for years to come.
“He’s a top, top player,” continued Guardiola. “I’ve told him many times: ‘If you want to be one of the world’s best central defenders, you can do it’. He’s young, quick, superb on the ball with right and left, has a great personality and is a great lad. You can forget about his goal for a minute. Obviously we’re happy that he scored it, but that’s not the thing to consider here. The most important thing to remember is that he is getting better year upon year. At the World Cup he was outstanding and the same was the case here," said the 43-year-old tactician.
The perfect defender?
To be sure, one could argue that Boateng was already one of the world’s best after
with Germany back in the summer - he missed just 45 minutes of action on the way to helping die Nationalmannschaft lift the trophy for a fourth time. And lest it be forgotten that he also lifted the European treble in 2012/13, as well as the domestic double last season.
Yet even for World Cup winners, there is always room for improvement, and Guardiola obviously feels has already begun to establish himself as one of the game’s true modern greats. The lapses of concentration that he showed as a young prodigy at Hamburger SV, then later at City and in his first two seasons in Munich, are becoming rarer and his use of the ball and positioning more adept. Combined with natural athleticism, awesome pace and assuredness in possession, Boateng’s potential is truly frightening.
First name on the team sheet
For both club and country, the Berlin native is part of a squad packed with so much talent that his importance is often understated. At the World Cup it was his partner Mats Hummels that grabbed the headlines with his two goals, while Manuel Neuer is often seen as the key cog of Bayern’s defensive wheel.
Games such as yesterday’s, however, against top-class European opposition in a crucial Champions League encounter, will bring into sharper focus just how important Boateng is to the Bavarians. Guardiola might be happy to rotate strikers, midfielders, full-backs and even goalkeepers, but one has the feeling Boateng has his place guaranteed this season.