In the relegation first leg, Kevin-Prince Boateng has to watch from the bench as his team trundles towards relegation. In the second leg at Hamburger SV he stops the drama. As a whisperer to coach Felix Magath, as an emotional leader. After relegation he distributed a lot of praise.
Kevin-Prince Boateng had another boss on Tuesday night: Niklas Stark and his taste in music. The outgoing Hertha defender wanted to bewitch the alleged DJ on the bus on the way back to Berlin to play a few hits. "I squeeze my tear glands and say, 'Hey, come on, it's my last trip today'," said the 27-year-old, who spent the last seven years at Hertha BSC and is now moving on to an as yet unknown club. Move on after staying up, which the Berliners made clear thanks to the 2-0 (1-0) in the relegation second leg at Hamburger SV.
More will than in the first leg, tougher duels, more presence, that's how Hertha disenchanted HSV and justifiably kept the class. "DJ Prince" had a big part in that. "I asked the guys before the game if they were hungry. They all said they were hungry. I said let's go out and eat. We ate," he said metaphorically after the win.
Boateng was on the bench for 90 minutes of the 1-0 defeat in the first leg at the Berlin Olympic Stadium, but coach Felix Magath relied on his oldie for the second leg. "Prince is a final player. He knows how it works. The team needs him now for the final," he said beforehand - and he was right. The original Berliner, whose move back to Berlin mainly had to do with his mentality and his connection to the club, was the "aggressive leader" on the pitch, the driver and guide. He kept gesturing with his teammates off the ball, talked to Ishak Belfodil and Stevan Jovetic after a good half hour during Mario Vuskovic's treatment break - and had a pass rate of 87 percent himself. Two back-heel tricks in the middle circle under the greatest pressure in the second half, when HSV increasingly tried again to avert non-promotion, brought him applause from the scene. Of course only from the curve of the Hertha fans.
And his leadership was not only tolerated, it was highly desired. "He provided the team. Thank God I listened to him," said Magath after the game. Boateng explained it in more detail: "He gave me a free hand today. He asked me: 'Who do you see better where, in which position?' We did a great job together, getting a team on the field that was strong in football and fighting.” The praise for the coach, who only took over the team on March 13 – as the third coach of the season – was correspondingly large: "It was clear from the start, he is a special guy, I'm a special guy, it can either clash completely or we get along extremely well. And we get along great." Boateng didn't want to hear about reports of a dispute between the two, it was a discussion at eye level.
And so Boateng played in the most important game of the year, until he got his special farewell in the 90th minute: Celebrated by the loud Hertha curve, which he whipped up even further with big arm movements, yellingly hissed at by the rest of the stadium. He had to spend a long six minutes of stoppage time on the bench before referee Deniz Aytekin called off the game and the 35-year-old, unlike most Hertha players, didn't immediately run into the corner, but first collapsed on the pitch. When he then joined the celebrating crowd, goalkeeper Oliver Christensen, who celebrated the most exuberantly, received him with a muscular gesture and a primal scream.
A little later he gave sports manager Fredi Bobic a very tight and long hug. The two have known each other from earlier Hertha years, when the young Boateng slowly matured into a professional and the career of Bobic, who was 16 years his senior, was coming to an end. A long-standing acquaintance, even a "super relationship", as Boateng calls it, which could now become important again. Because Boateng's contract expires. "I still feel like it, I'm in a good mood, even if you didn't always see it. But today the Prince was back, exactly when it matters, I'll be back. You can also write that, it's a nice headline 'The Prince is back'. And when I stop, you can write, 'The Prince is gone again'," said the midfielder. "You can now have conversations in peace."
In general, Boateng has a need to speak: "We have to learn a lot. We have to bring calm into the club. We have to become a family again, like it was today. That's Hertha BSC."
Hertha BSC is also Marvin Plattenhardt. Boateng calls him "one of the best left feet in the Bundesliga". Stark got more emotional: "I love that guy," he said with a grin. "That he's still the match winner today - with his two, one and a half goals..." The left-back has been at the club since 2014, matured into a temporary international in Berlin and is usually known for his dangerous crosses. That evening in Hamburg it went even further. After just four minutes, Plattenhardt made it 1-0, and captain Dedryck Boyata converted his corner with a powerful header.
The 2-0 in the 63rd minute was a Sunday shot by the 30-year-old that was absolutely worth seeing. Plattenhardt had prepared a free kick on the right sideline, his shot went perfectly in an arc around HSV keeper Daniel Heuer-Fernandes into the far corner, converted directly. And suddenly Hertha was saved. "That was exactly what we needed," commented Boateng. "We wouldn't have won today without Marvin Plattenhardt," said Magath.
The outgoing coach, who is leaving again in Berlin, had one goal: to stay in the league. He made that clear with the nerve-wracking detour via relegation: "Of course I'm overjoyed. We were the happier ones today and so I'm really happy that I did it for Hertha."
For Hertha, for the fans who tirelessly sang, jumped and swung their scarves in the packed Volksparkstadion and could be heard well despite the overwhelming majority of the HSV fans. Of course also for Boateng, who carries the Hertha DNA. And who, for Magath, is more than just the emotional leader. Good for the club that the coach has listened to his professional. So there is still something to celebrate at the very end of a sometimes catastrophic season. "It's the end of the season as if we were champions," said Boateng.
That's why he doesn't want to celebrate a big party, only "two or three beers" are in it. "Everyone thinks I'm such a party girl," he said, "just to go home. I have to relax, it's been a tough year." However, he will not have escaped Stark's music wishes for "a few times Helene (Fischer, editor's note)" on the bus.