Of all the players Genoa signed during the summer, one has undoubtedly shined brighter than the rest. Unfortunately for the inconsistent port club, Kevin-Prince Boateng is turning out to be a revelation in the Rossoneri stripes of Milan rather than the Rossoblu halved shirt of the Grifone.
Acquired for a fee of around €5m from Portsmouth in the summer, Boateng was wastefully undervalued by the Marassi outfit. Then boss Gian Piero Gasperini seemed indifferent to his arrival and owner Enrico Preziosi declassified Boateng from a footballer to a mere transfer asset.
"Boateng? He's not at the top of my list," Gasperini noted. "I've seen a whole load of names linked with us, but the important thing for me is that the players who arrive here have the right requisites for the team."
Preziosi too believed that Boateng was surplus to requirements at the Ferraris, inaccurately confident that the squad which he has built over the years had better players than the Ghanaian World Cup star.
"He wouldn't have been sure of a starting shirt given that we have so many attacking midfielders in our squad," Preziosi declared. "As a result, I offered him to Adriano Galliani and we agreed on a co-ownership deal. If Milan want to sign him outright then that is fine, otherwise we'd happily take him back."
The chances of seeing Boateng return to Marassi are slim to say the least. While the Rossoblu, now bossed by Davide Ballardini, have coughed and spluttered their way to mid-table, the Berlin-born 23-year-old has demonstrated at San Siro that he's much more valuable than just a Genoa squad player.
His early season performances were respectable in a variety of midfield roles, but his displays in the last few weeks, after a very definite positional switch, have seen some compare the importance of his capture to those of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho for the League leaders.
Ever since Milan's drubbing in the Champions League at Real Madrid, boss Massimiliano Allegri has understood that his side – and not the one in the mind of owner Silvio Berlusconi – needed balancing out, where he required the right players in the right position at the right times.
For Boateng, that has meant stepping into the shoes of multiple Champions League winner Clarence Seedorf as a trequartista behind two strikers. "I decided to play Prince there because I needed a player who was capable of breaking through the lines," stated the tactician.
It's a ploy, one similar to the way Simone Perrotta was used by Luciano Spalletti at Roma, which has worked well up until now. Consecutive goals against Brescia and Bologna confirm as much, as did his overall performances in those two matches.
Boateng can clearly be satisfied with his efforts, especially as Kevin is playing out a childhood dream thanks to the tactical alertness of his Coach. As a boy he admired a number of attacking midfielders, a few of them who have tried and failed to pull the strings at Milan.
"Rivaldo was my idol as a kid," he recently stated in an interview. "I saw him play a couple of times and I immediately liked him. Then there was Ronaldinho too, who at Barcelona played a different sport to everyone else. He was simply incredible.
"Growing up, I always wanted to play as a No 10 behind the strikers and I started to follow the career of Zinedine Zidane. It seems as if football was just too simple for him, almost boring, given the tranquil manner in which he played."
There is little relaxed about Boateng's style. He has been an almost constant source of vitality to a side that many wrote off as being too old to dominate domestically this year, a player who now rightly has a place not only in the Milan team, but also in the hearts of the Rossoneri faithful. It's an affectionate bond he shares.
"If I could ask for one more thing it would be to wake up tomorrow morning and have a contract with Milan," he added. "I want Milan to be the team of my life. I think about that a lot because I know what I can give to this team. I am aware of my capabilities and I'll prove to everyone that I deserve to stay here."
There seems little doubt that Boateng will remain, even Preziosi is aware of that. The only modicum of satisfaction for the President – who has watched the likes of Houssine Kharja and Franco Zuculini, amongst others, flop this term – is that he'll at least double his money. It'll make his Boateng deals a financial success, but a footballing blunder.
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