Germany: Bundesliga
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Hertha BSC
S. Serdar (49)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Boateng answers critics and speaks on leadership role: "Coach said 'pull the team along'"

By all accounts, Charlottenburg native Kevin-Prince Boateng answered his head-coach's call for on-pitch leadership Saturday afternoon. 

After helping secure a crucial win for his relegation-threatened club, the 35-year-old spoke on his performance and the challenges ahead. 
Hertha BSC trainer Felix Magath ignited a small firestorm earlier this week when he proclaimed that his team had no natural leader on the pitch. Magath specifically referenced 35-year-old veteran midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng as not having consistent enough fitness to lead the team in the manner envisioned when he was brought home to his hometown club on a free.

Boateng--who has had to deal with persistent injury woes this season--has unquestionably been a bust. In just 14 appearances across all competitions, the famous Boateng middle brother has managed neither a goal nor an assist for the Charlottenburg side.

German footballing legend Lothar Matthäus' assertion earlier this year that the veteran journeyman's playing career is effectively over seems to have been, in many respects, proven correct.

Boateng sits on an expiring contract and the club has already publicly noted that they have no interest in renewing. Given that Prince has himself publicly stated that Hertha will be his last stop, retirement is expected to come after the few final rounds of the current Bundesliga campaign conclude.

Boateng's final task is thus to help his old academy club avoid relegation.

"I'm just happy," Boateng noted after a successful match during which he won an impressive 86 percent of his duels from the ten-slot, "There's been so much criticism against the team and myself personally. This was an important mental victory for us."

Boateng confirmed that Magath had approached him directly when planning his squad. In point of fact, according to the player, the Hertha trainer even asked him where he would like to play.

"In a sort of joking manner, he asked me where I'd like to be," Boateng revealed, "I told him I'd like to play at ten because that's my favorite position."

"He then put me there," Boateng continued, "and said 'do your thing, pull the team along, and put it all in order'. He gave me that responsibility and I think, no, I know that we did quite well."

"I've always said that I give everything," he added, "The coach said he needed me. I don't look like a player that's already finished."

Being of notoriously bad temper when being subbed off early, Boateng admitted that he didn't quite care for being pulled off in the 68th.

"It made me a little sad," he conceded, "but he [Magath] said to save it for next week."

The win at Augsburg pulled Hertha out of the relegation zone for the time being. The club presently finds itself one third of the way through a three-fixture-stretch of must-wins against direct relegation rivals. Stuttgart is up next, followed by Bielefeld.

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