A Touching Tale of Loyalty and Respect
In the realm of football, relationships between players and managers often transcend the boundaries of the pitch. Kevin Prince-Boateng, a former loanee at Borussia Dortmund, and Jurgen Klopp, the man at the helm during his tenure, shared a bond that was both professional and deeply personal.
Prince-Boateng’s arrival at Dortmund in January 2009 was met with scepticism and criticism, largely stemming from his tumultuous 18 months at Tottenham Hotspur under Martin Jol and Juande Ramos. Yet, Klopp, ever the maverick in man-management, stood firm in his decision, defending and believing in the German-born Ghanian from the outset.
Klopp’s belief in Prince-Boateng was not unfounded. Despite a suspension due to a reckless challenge and a somewhat tarnished reputation, the midfielder showcased his prowess in his ten appearances, contributing to Dortmund’s sixth-place finish in the Bundesliga.
A Manager Who Believes, A Player Who Delivers
Klopp’s faith was reciprocated with loyalty and a willingness to perform from Prince-Boateng. The midfielder, once doubted and criticised, found in Klopp a mentor who saw beyond the pages of his past and believed in his potential. This belief was not just in words. Klopp defended Prince-Boateng even when his aggressive playstyle resulted in on-pitch incidents, maintaining that his actions stemmed from a desire to prove his worth.
“I said I will give my life for him. Every player would die for him on the pitch because he gives you that feeling of confidence, that feeling of love as well. Whatever you do, if you do a mistake, he’s going to be there. I needed that guy who was going to believe in me because after Martin Jol and Juande Ramos, no-one believed in me. I didn’t believe in myself – I just gave up. I had like six, seven pounds [of weight] more. So he gave me that feeling, so I came [there] and performed.
“Then things didn’t work out because I had some bad tackles I made and in Germany, I had not the best name because people said I was crazy. In one of the last games I played for them, I kicked someone in the face, he was my team-mate afterwards in Frankfurt, and he still had the scar…like Harry Potter. He still protected me, Klopp. He was like: ‘yeah, he wanted to show everybody how good he is.'”
The Unbreakable Bond Off the Pitch
Their relationship was not confined to football. Klopp extended an invitation to his home to Prince-Boateng, a gesture that spoke volumes about the depth of their connection. Even a humorous incident involving Klopp’s son and a night out drinking did not tarnish their rapport. Instead, it added a layer of personal interaction and mutual respect between the player and manager.
Parting Ways but Holding Tight to Memories
The eventual parting of ways, driven by Dortmund’s financial constraints, was an emotional moment for both. A personal call from Klopp to explain the situation led to tears on both ends of the line. Yet, the mutual respect and admiration between the two never wavered, even as Prince-Boateng moved to Portsmouth. Their bond, forged in the fires of professional trials and personal interactions, remains a poignant tale in the football world.
“He was a very important figure in my career, it didn’t work out. He called me personally and said we can’t buy you, we don’t have the money. We both cried on the phone. Like really cried. We had a very good relationship.”