VICE Sports Q&A: Jérôme Boateng

We spoke to Bayern Munich and Germany defender Jerome Boateng about working to improve his game, life after football, and the Drake doppelgänger he met in Berlin.

Dec 1 2015, 1:20pm

Foto: Nike/Paul Ripke

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports Germany.

His teammate Javi Martinez recently called Jérôme Boateng the best defender in the world. While these kinds of superlatives should usually be treated with caution when coming from teammates, you can't really argue with the Spaniard. Boateng was the best player on the field during the 2014 World Cup Final and today his consistency works to the great advantage of both Bayern Munich and the German national side.

There aren't a lot of people that thought he was capable of this. Boateng once had a reputation for being inconsistent and arrogant; at 23 he'd already played for four professional clubs but was yet to find himself a place within a team or a position on the field. People knew he had something to offer, but they would not have guessed he was sitting on such unrestrained ambition.

VICE Sports met up with Boateng in Munich at a TIEMPO VI presentation and discussed patience, his supposed arrogance, and a Drake doppelgänger in Berlin.

VICE Sports: I'm supposed to say 'Hi' from the Drake doppelgänger in Berlin.

Jérôme Boateng: (laughs) Where did that picture come from again?

He said backstage at the Ryan Leslie show.

(laughs) Right! Tell him I say 'what's up' when you're back in Berlin.

I will. You're currently signed to Roc Nation Sports. Are you seeing parallels between musicians and football players?

Hmm... musicians' schedules are completely packed and they're basically on the go all the time. And that's even more intense when they're on tour. Before producing an album, they have downtime for one or two months. We don't have that. We're pretty much always on the go. If you play Champions League away, you're in a hotel two to three times a week. That's pretty extreme. The other thing that's similar is giving interviews and talking about your job.

I still get the feeling that football players are kept away from giving interviews though. Ultimately it's about what you achieve on the field, not your personality.

Of course, but people underestimate that part of being a musician. When they go on stage, they have to deliver, because people want to see something for their money. That's one of the most important parts of their job.

To what extent can athletes rely on their own talent?

Well, you don't get anywhere without hard work. The earlier you understand that, the better.

My taxi driver on the way here was an old school Bavarian bloke. He said, "Boateng is sensational. I love the arrogance." What could he have meant?

Maybe he's talking about my style. A lot of people chalk that up to arrogance, but that's not my intention at all. I'm not trying to offend anyone, that's just the way I run and I've been playing this way since I was a kid.

He also said that he would never have thought you'd develop the way you have.

You have to work on yourself. I've worked a lot on myself during training. I've done a lot tactically and improved my ball skills to be technically versed with both feet. The most important thing I learned during games is to be calmer, to try to smooth over other people's or my own mistakes and not to tackle people unnecessarily. Patience was key for me. Over the years you get better at timing, because you've been through the situations thousands of times. The ball goes over your head, he passes you on the right, left. Eventually you just know what you have to do. Concentration exercises have helped me a lot. Bayern have the ball a lot. We're only really challenged a few times per game sometimes, and then you just really have to be awake.

How do you do that?

Everyone does it differently. I talk to myself to stay alert.

Have there been people that have given you more self-awareness? People who have said, 'just feel free to kick the long diagonal cross.'

Of course. I talk to my older brother [Kevin-Prince Boateng] and my father, for example. When they criticise me, I know they're being honest. If I can understand criticism, I take it very seriously. But it's a process, it doesn't happen overnight.

You're 27 and you probably still have your best years as a defender in front of you. But do you still sometimes think about what you'd like to do after your career in football?

Of course, you have to think about how you will arrange things for your own future. You never know what's going to happen. You have to try to work on a fallback.

Do you have an idea of what that could be already?

Not really yet. Maybe I'll invest in something, or go into fashion. There are enough opportunities. You can also play another sport or get into management. No matter what you do, you have to do it right.

That's hard for me to imagine. You're at the hight of your ability, one of the best defenders, and then you start something totally new and you're just one of many.

Of course, it's a challenge. Everyone needs to know for themselves what they can do and what they want. If you do, then you'll get there.