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Messi Taught Boateng One Lesson To Make Him The Best Defender In The World

Jerome Boateng believed he would beat Barcelona when he walked on the field on the 6th of May, 2015. He was a part of one of the greatest teams in the world, a German machine that had just completed a ludicrous second leg comeback against FC Porto. For those of you who don’t remember that second leg, it was the one that, in the span of 90 minutes, went from a feel good story about an overmatched Portuguese side punching well above its weight on the biggest stage in club soccer, to a crushing reality check that had the internet so stunned and excited that it could hardly do more than cry out to Bayern from behind it’s collective keyboard, “Stop! Stop, Bayern, they’re already dead!”

Much like that 6-1 second leg shellacking, Boateng’s fortunes would change quite a lot in 90 minutes that night in Barcelona.

He went from believing he could win, to, as Zito Madu of SB Nation put it, having his life ruined, “reduced to several malfunctioning limbs.” He went “down in a pile of misery like every man when he realizes his girlfriend was really serious when she said she was done this time.” He was “plunged…into such a personal crisis that his motor functions abandoned him.” He had his soul torn out and held “high for the world to see.” 

Zito Madu was not exaggerating, he was giving voice to reality: 

Jerome Boateng walked onto the pitch as one of the best defenders in the world that day, lined up against Lionel Messi, and left as a joke. What happened to him was nothing less than one of the greatest sporting embarrassments of all time.

That goal wrapped up the semifinal between Bayern and Barcelona. It was the moment that everyone realized that Barcelona had Lionel Messi, the best player in the world, and that was all that really mattered, because he could do things like that to players like Boateng. No one believed that Bayern had a chance in the second leg, not because of their eventual 3-0 defeat in the first leg, but because of how badly they got embarrassed by Lionel Messi. And Jerome Boateng was that man that let it happen.


That goal is Boateng's fault. He is paid millions of dollars to stand tall in situations just like that, and make the correct play. That could be a tackle, or maintaining correct positioning. It is never, ever getting shook so bad that you end up on your back side as the forward runs onto goal. Boateng failed in that moment, utterly and completely. He failed so emphatically you could argue it wasn’t even his fault: he was just a pawn at the feet of the best player in the world. But it was his fault, and it could have ruined him. 

The careers of professional athletes can hinge on a single moment like no other profession in the world. They are defined by them, for better, and sometimes for tragic, tragic worse. Giving up that goal in that way could have ruined Jerome Boateng, destroying his confidence for the rest of his career. 

Related: The Internet Reacts, "Someone Call Life Alert. Jerome Boateng Has Fallen And He Can’t Get Up."

Messi Destroys Boateng

The public forgets everything eventually, but individuals can remember things for a lifetime. That moment could have haunted Boateng for a lifetime, reducing him, preventing him from ever confidently playing again. Such things have happened before. Ask Fernando Torres about what a wrong move can do to a player’s career. 

We will never know how much Boateng was haunted by that goal, if it kept him up at night during the weeks following that day, because he never talked about it. He is talking about it now, and what ever hauntings there might have been have long since been eradicated. 

Jerome Boateng is shown in glasses looking combative yet wise.

No worse for wear. Photo: @lequipemagazine | Twitter

“That [goal] doesn't really affect me," the 26-year-old said to ESPN. "I was laughing at myself. When you fall down or slip in a situation and somebody scores a goal, it's normal. These things happen; it happens to me, it happens to other players, I don't care about these things.

"That's football. I'm a defender, that doesn't kill me…At the end of the day, you have to continue your hard work, and next season I will try with the team again to win the Champions League. Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win, sometimes you are unlucky, but that's life."


He is no longer affected by one of the greatest embarrassments the footballing world has ever seen. He can now laugh at it, at himself. That means that he understands that, even though his failure led to Messi’s goal and ultimately lost them the semifinal, he has moved on. He hasn't just dealt with failure, he has dealt with failure on the biggest stage in the world.

Getting embarrassed by Lionel Messi was an experience Boateng needed to become the greatest defender in the world. Defenders need to be able to react with a level head to any situation. In order to do that, a defender must have two things: they must be innately composed, and they must have experience. Any defender that earns the starting job for Bayern Munich like Boateng has is composed, but experience allows them to maintain that composure in situations more demanding than what less experienced players could handle. Messi gave Boateng an experience of failure the likes of which no other defender has been through. An experience that Boateng has overcome. Consequently, Boateng will now be able to perform in situations more stressful than what any other defender could handle. Boateng already separates himself from the vast majority of defenders with his skill and his physical abilities. Now he can further isolate himself as the best defender in the world.

Somehow, the last step in Jerome Boateng’s development has been initiated by an embarrassment he received at the hands of Lionel Messi. If he can complete it, he would surprise the majority of people who have seen what happened to him that night in Barcelona. The majority, but not to you and I; after all, we know how much can change in a mere 90 minutes, let alone longer.

Follow me on Twitter: @yelty

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