Kevin-Prince Boateng's 2021-22 football season is unquestionably his worst in recent years, with limited playing time, injuries, a falling out with the manager, and a looming relegation threat, perhaps indicating that the time has come for the Hertha Berlin midfielder to consider a different contribution to the beautiful game.
In June of last year, the 35-year-old made a personal return to his boyhood club Hertha Berlin. Berlin was not only where he began his professional career, but it was also where he was born. For many, the move implied that the 'Ghetto Kid' was considering retiring from the game.
The Hertha return, on the other hand, appears to be far from what he would have envisioned, and possibly never the type of farewell he would want at a club he loves. Boateng made 18 Bundesliga appearances in all, with his restricted match time owing to fitness difficulties, which sapped his energy and caused him to lose form. But there's more to the story than that.
After a spat in training, Boateng fell out with then-club coach Pal Dardai in October. They were teammates during the latter's first Hertha tenure, which is interesting. Although they reconciled soon after their disagreement, Boateng spent more time on the bench than before, making no further Bundesliga appearances under Dardai until April of this year under new manager Felix Magath.
Hertha Berlin battled relegation and ultimately failed to secure top-flight status at the end of the season, making it a difficult moment for the former Ghana international on a personal level.
However, it was not the worst-case scenario, as The Old Lady salvaged their season by finishing third from bottom and securing a relegation play-off match against Hamburger SV. In all, the midfielder appeared in just over half (18) of the Bundesliga season's games, starting only eight of them, his lowest amount of starts in a full season since his 2015-16 campaign.
He was also an unused replacement in seven games, missed six games due to injury and another owing to suspension, and was mysteriously absent from the matchday squad on two occasions. Worst of all, he finished the season without a goal or an assist, his first such blemish since the 2008-09 season.
So, after spending time on the books of some of the world's most prestigious teams, including Milan, Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 04, and Tottenham Hotspur, and representing his country at two World Cups, is it time for Boateng to reevaluate his playing career?
"I'd like to put on the Hertha shirt one more time at the Olympiastadion. I'm not sure how long it'll last, but it'll do for now. It'll undoubtedly be my final club, "Boateng declared after rejoining Hertha in July.
When the attacker returned to The Old Lady, he was clearly aware of the obstacles ahead. If he pondered playing on at any point throughout the season, his current statistics imply it might not be a good idea.
If Hertha wins the relegation play-off and stays in the Bundesliga, the massive win may be the perfect way to end the season on a positive note, despite everything that has happened.
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