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It was with the help of Kevin Prince-Boateng that AC Milan breezed past PSV Eindhoven and into the Champions League group stages on Wednesday night, easing the growing pressure on Massimiliano Allegri in the process.
Having lost the Serie A season opener to newly-promoted Hellas Verona, under-21 coach Devis Mangia was primed to succeed Allegri as the ruthless axe of Silvio Berlusconi seemed again about to fall. Allegri summoned a performance that brushed aside Eindhoven in the 2nd leg of the Champions League qualifier and with group stage participation now assured, he can relax and settle down to the task of forming a squad good enough to return to validly challenging for the Serie A title.
Boateng scored twice for Milan in the 3-0 victory over Eindhoven, striking early in the first half with a low drive before a quick turn of feet saw him finish off a neat move late in the second. The well-taken second goal turned out to be his last meaningful contribution in the shirt of the Rossoneri as the German born Ghanian has joined Schalke in a move that will be welcomed with surprise by many, but not to Boateng who revealed via his Twitter account that the move was proposed a year ago.
The transfer, for a fee in the region of £10 million, brings to an end a three year spell at the San Siro in which he made 74 appearances and scored 10 goals. After helping Ghana to the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup, it was in Milan where he eventually settled after an erratic career that had seen him turn out for four clubs by the age of 23.
Boateng started his career off in Germany with Hertha Berlin before moving to Tottenham where he found his progress stifled with just 14 appearances in 2 years in north London. After an unsuccessful loan spell at Borussia Dortmund and a year with Portsmouth in 2009, the Ghanian moved to Genoa before being immediately loaned in by Milan only to see the deal turned permanent a year later.
Now the 26 year old is back in the Bundesliga after signing a four year deal and he is pleased, “I am happy to be back home in Germany, in the best league in the world” said the midfielder. As Milan’s former number 10 was seeing the Rossoneri through to the Champions League on Wednesday, Schalke were also making it there and Boateng will be legible to play for the Royal Blues due to UEFA rulings.
The sharp acquisition of the Ghanian, completed with haste and to a sensible fee, will be a huge boost to Schalke’s young manager Jens Keller as he aims to build on an impressive first year in charge of the Bundesliga outfit.
Blessed with a fine technique and a nimble touch which compliments his bulky 6ft frame that allows him to power past opponents, his role at Milan was to drop off the forward line to link the midfield with the talented attack of Stephen El Shaarawry and Mario Balotelli.
However, his place in Allegri’s squad was placed under threat towards the end of last season as the Ghanian struggled, only providing 2 goals and 4 assists in 25 league starts.
At Schalke, Keller is likely to use him in the same position, but he will be complimented by an array of young attacking talent in Max Meyer, Julian Draxler and Leon Goretzka who can glide into different positions to create a more fluid, cohesive unit than the one in place at Allegri’s Milan.
Boateng, who is likely to be the player charged with moulding it all together, and the hugely promising German trio will play in support of Dutch goal-machine Klaas Jan Huntelaar.
The logic behind Milan’s speedy sale of Boateng is to create a void which is likely to be filled by either Kaka or Japan’s Keisuke Honda, who has been a long-term target of the club.
Kaka has announced he wants to leave Real Madrid as his progression has been blocked by the latest raft of signings at the Bernabeu and with Milan chief Adriano Galliani reportedly saying their former Brazilian is “forever in the club’s hearts”, it has fuelled rumours he could return to the San Siro just four years after making his record-breaking £56 million move to the Spanish capital.
Honda meanwhile remains the more likely option as the Rossoneri have agreed to sign the Japanese attacking midfielder on a free in January, but the £10 million left behind by Boateng’s departure could allow them to meet CSKA’s valuation in order to sign the player earlier.
Following the exit of Boateng after a mixed three years in Italy, it is certain there will be another arrival at Milanello before the transfer window shuts next Tuesday after the club last week concluded the deal to bring in Alessandro Matri for £10 million.
El Shaarawry and Balotelli are likely to be joined by either Kaka or Honda as Allegri prepares for a rejuvenated assault on Serie A and now the Champions League, just as they wave goodbye to the Ghana international who helped get them there.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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