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.

    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.