In Arsenal’s desperate search for defensive reinforcements this winter, Bayern Munich centre-back Jérôme Boateng has emerged as one of the club’s top transfer targets.
The 31-year-old could cost the club up to £12m, or as little as £4m, if they decide to make the World Cup winner their first January signing this season.
It looks like a good bit of business on the surface, even with the boring, stock phrases like ‘he’s past his best’, ‘he’s on the decline’ or ‘he’s in the twilight stages of his career’ coming along with every new transfer rumour surrounding Boateng.
Those claims aren’t entirely unfounded either.
But nothing has highlighted the mainstream media’s ignorant approach to covering Boateng’s future than the distinct lack of focus on what really is the Bayern Munich defender’s biggest downfall – and that’s that his body just doesn’t work anymore.
Firstly, let’s take nothing away from the man himself. He’s won 20 major honours as a player and as recently as 2016, Boateng was named as Germany’s Player of the Year – the first defender to win the award since Jürgen Kohler in 1997.
The former Hamburg and Manchester City star has, at times, rightly been widely regarded as one of the best defenders on the planet and he’s made over 300 appearances for Bayern Munich throughout his career.
Even now, Boateng’s ability on the ball is bettered by very few defenders at the highest level of the game and his footballing IQ hasn’t been lost.
But since he won the Player of the Year award just over three years ago, Boateng has suffered multiple injuries to his shoulders, thighs, hamstrings, back, and countless more areas of his body.
That shouldn’t be a concern for the obvious reasons though. Yes, he is more injury prone than most other players at a similar level, but it’s what those injuries have done to Boateng’s body that should keep any clubs who have aspirations of qualifying for the Champions League as far away from his signature as possible.
Even with a catastrophic injury crisis at Bayern Munich, Boateng has been used very sparingly this season.
And for anyone who doesn’t watch Bayern Munich on a regular basis, it would be easy to chalk those numbers up to Boateng being ‘past his best’, ‘on the decline’, ‘in the twilight of his career’ or any other run of the mill phrases that are being used.
But in reality, Boateng isn’t being used at Bayern Munich because he can’t perform anywhere near that level anymore.
David Alaba has been moved to centre-back and, in turn, teenager Alphonso Davies has become Bayern Munich’s makeshift left-back, as the club desperately looks for any reason to keep Boateng out of the starting lineup.
It’s not Boateng’s fault as his body has just recovered in the worst way possible, but for anyone who even catches the odd glimpse of the Bundesliga on a semi-regular basis, it’s obvious that the former Germany international doesn’t have a future at the highest level.
Perhaps the biggest concern to come out of all this is actually Arsenal’s interest itself, and the Gunners have already shown a concerning lack of understanding about the German market too.
There were parties at Borussia Dortmund when they were given just under £15m to ship Sokratis Papastathopoulos to north London, while Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka have never really been the flavour of the month either.
It’s understandable that Arsenal want a stop-gap before William Saliba returns to the club from Saint-Étienne.
But if there is any truth in their interest in Boateng – there’s certainly been enough smoke so far to call fire on that one – then it should be a major red flag for fans at Emirates Stadium that despite all the changes behind the scenes, it’s going to continue being one step forward and two steps back for quite some time.
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