EXCLUSIVE: Jerome Boateng on life at Bayern Munich

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Bayern star man: Jerome Boateng.

Jerome Boateng’s favourite Jay-Z song is 99 Problems, which is a little ironic given that playing for Bayern Munich seems, from the outside at least, a fairly issue-free existence right now. Top of the Bundesliga, again; through to the Champions League knockout stages, again. For Boateng, an aficionado of East Coast rap, life in southeast Germany is looking pretty rosy.

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On the pitch, Boateng and Bayern are flying high. Pep Guardiola’s side have appeared almost balletic at times this season as they have carved open opponents at will. Only Arsenal have beaten them, while Frankfurt claimed a goalless draw; 19 victories from 21 games – since a penalty shootout defeat to Wolfsburg in the Super Cup – represents an imperious season to date.

Despite the success, however, there is a large, Champions League-shaped shadow that continues to loom over the Allianz Arena. Guardiola may have brought further success to the Treble-winning Bayern side he inherited from Jupp Heynckes but domestic dominance has not been matched by continental glory. In the past two seasons, Bayern have lost semi-finals to the eventual winners, Real Madrid in 2014 and Barcelona earlier this year. 

Failure to win the trophy is threatening to stain Guardiola’s reign and Boateng insists he and his team-mates are fully aware of Bayern’s European expectations.

“Both years were close,” Boateng tells Sport360. “I suppose after winning the Champions League in 2013 you want to win it again. Bayern is the biggest team in Germany, one of the biggest teams in Europe. Every year, world class players come along so it’s one of the strongest teams in the world.

“The last two years were unlucky but we lost against better teams. The key now is to push hard and try again, and I think we have a good opportunity to win this time around.”

Whether Bayern triumph in the Champions League or not, Guardiola is expected to step away from Bavaria next summer, with Manchester City believed to head the list of his potential suitors.

For Boateng, though, there is no question of who he wants in the dugout next season.

“I’d like to see Pep stay at Bayern,” Boateng says. “The whole team wants to keep him, but at the end of the day it’s his decision. We are really happy with the style of football were playing at the moment under him.”

“He’s very important to us. He’s brought great influence to my game, passing and technically. He’s a really excellent coach and he’s great for all the players.”

Guardiola has inspired a significant improvement in Boateng’s individual form, with the 27-year-old now regarded as one of the best centre-backs in the world. He was overlooked when the recent Ballon d’Or shortlist was released in October, but insists personal accolades have never been his major motivation.

“Of course, the Ballon d’Or is nice but at the end of the day I want to have success and play good, and if people recognise me then I’m happy,” Boateng says. “I try every day to become a better player – passing more to open the game – I try everything because you can always be better. The most important thing is to help the team.

“The first thing in my position is to defend. It’s not about nice passes. The game has improved so you want your defenders to score or make assists, or cross. You have to work a lot. You want a defender to play with both feet so you need lots of training.”

Away from the pitch, Boateng became the first footballer to join Jay Z’s Roc Nations Sports earlier this year. Hoping to become an international brand under Jay Z’s wing, Boateng said: “It was a dream come true because he’s a really big name and he’s achieved a lot in music. It was great to meet him and he’s really down to earth. We spoke for three hours about music, sports, everything. It was a really interesting experience.”

Boateng hasn’t always been a major star in FC Hollywood’s blockbuster XI. His has been a steady rise to prominence, with a move away from Hamburg in 2008 proving the key stepping stone.

“I didn’t play much in 2008 having played a lot in my first year at the club. It’s very hard especially when you don’t have your family around. You need bad times to become a better and strong player.”

He left Hamburg in 2010, and after one season at Manchester City signed for a Bayern Munich team brimming with ambition under Heynckes.  Since his arrival to the Allianz Arena, he has made 118 appearances and won an array of silverware, including three Bundesliga titles, a Champions League, and a World Cup.  

Germany will be looking to add another piece of silverware in France at next summer’s European Championship, and despite a couple of shaky defeats to Ireland and Poland in qualifying, Boateng is confident of his country’s chances.

“After the World Cup, we didn’t play so well, only one or two games we felt we played to our potential. We struggled a little, but I’m positive as we always prepare well for these tournaments so I’m looking forward to it and hopefully we can win.”

With another Bundesliga title looking likely, Euro 2016 on the horizon and another run at the Champions League to come after Christmas, there is no question that, to borrow the inimitable words of Shawn Carter, Boateng’s status appears to be at an all-time high.

Best fun in the Bayern dressing room: Franck Ribery
Longest in the shower: Kingsley Coman
Fastest on the Bayern team: Douglas Costa
Best jersey he’s collected: Alessandro Del Piero
Best players in the world: Messi and Ronaldo, and then in the Bundesliga Marco Reus
Favourite Jay Z song: 99 problems 
Jerome with the new Nike Tiempo Legend 6 boot.

*Nike ambassador Jerome Boateng launched the new Nike Tiempo Legend 6 in Munich recently. The boot will be available at all Nike stores from December 3 in UAE and KSA. 

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Perez says Real Madrid will contest any Copa del Rey sanctions

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Perez has revealed Los Blancos will fight any sanctions for fielding an ineligible player.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez insists the club will fight any sanctions for fielding an ineligible player in the Copa del Rey victory over Cadiz on Wednesday night.

Denis Cheryshev, who scored the opening goal in the 3-1 win, should have been suspended after he received three yellow cards in the competition for Villarreal last season.

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Cheryshev was withdrawn from the action moments after half-time, when Real had realised their error, with head coach Rafael Benitez saying they wanted to “show good faith”.

Last season Osasuna were kicked out of the tournament for playing an ineligible player while Benitez was in charge of Valencia when they were disqualified from the Copa del Rey having played too many non-EU players in a tie in 2001.

But Perez believes that as neither the player nor the club were informed of the suspension that Real cannot therefore be disqualified from the Copa del Rey.

Perez told a press conference: “The one-match ban for three yellow cards in our view is not effective because no-one has notified the player as specified in item 41.2 of the Disciplinary Code of the RFEF.”

Earlier, Cheryshev confirmed he did not receive notification from his former club that he would be banned.

He told his current club’s website, realmadrid.com: “I did not receive any notification from Villarreal to inform me that I had been banned from playing in the Copa del Rey.”

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Neville admits he would have questioned unproven managerial appointment

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Gary Neville was presented as Valencia boss on Thursday.

Gary Neville was presented as the new Valencia boss on Thursday, before admitting he would have questioned the appointment of an untested manager to such a big job.

The 40-year-old England coach will take his first venture into football management with the Primera Division giants after signing a six-month deal.

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– BALL: Marking Neymar and Barcelona’s brilliance
– SHARE, RATE, WIN: With Sport360 ValoraFutbol
– Follow: Live footballs scores around the world

Opting to start out at such a major club will open Neville up to the kinds of criticism he was more used to dishing out as a pundit with Sky Sports.

The former Manchester United captain knows he has now put his neck on the line but felt it was the right time to do so.

When asked what Neville the pundit would have made of another man being appointed in such a fashion, he replied: “I would question it as a neutral observer and would be sceptical, wanting to be proven otherwise.

“I understand that here I have to prove to Valencia fans that I’m capable of doing this job. Those who have concerns will only be removed by winning football matches.

“Sitting on television, talking about coaches for these last few years, the time had come for me to stand up.”

Neville’s first match at the helm will come in a pivotal Champions League clash against Lyon after he decided against taking charge for this weekend’s league fixture with Barcelona.

Although he has ended his affiliation with Sky, Neville will continue in his coaching position alongside Roy Hodgson in the England set-up and does not envisage any issues arising from his dual commitments, revealing all of his other projects will take a back seat for the time being.

“He was behind me 100 per cent,” Neville said of Hodgson’s reaction.

“We have the two games in March during the international break so from my point of view, I wanted to complete my job through to the European Championship but I want people to know that Valencia is my priority 95-99 per cent of the time.

“Obviously I have a lot of interests back home but I’m fully focused on this challenge in front of me. Salford City has a 14-person committee, a coaching staff and three other owners who live near the ground.

“My input, in that sense, is minimal. The club runs itself in many ways.”

It will certainly be a family affair in Valencia as Neville announced brother Phil will remain at the club he joined in the summer as assistant coach – while his wife and children will also relocate to join him in Spain.

“If Phil wasn’t here, I would want him here,” he added.

“He’s diligent, hard-working and form my point of view I’m delighted he’s part of the coaching set-up. We don’t do niceties and we talk about actions and what we’re going to do.

”My family will move over here permanently. My girls will finish school in Manchester in two weeks’ time and they’ll move over to Valencia with my wife.”

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