When the curtain falls on Jerome Boateng’s Bayern Munich career, his time in Bavaria will no doubt be looked back on with great affection. 8 years have passed since the Berlin-born centre-back arrived at the Allianz Arena, and his time at the club has coincided with a period of unprecedented domestic success. Seven consecutive Bundesliga titles, four DFB-Pokal titles and 4 DFL-Supercup’s were won, and Boateng also tasted continental success with a Champions League winning campaign in 2013.
However, the value that Boateng has contributed to these winning feats, has waned of late. Plagued by injuries, he has failed to start more than 20 games in any of the last 4 seasons, and as a result, is no longer the defender that had established himself as one of the world's best centre-backs just a few years ago.
This summer is rapidly looking like being the end of the road for Boateng's time in Munich, with Bayern President Uli Hoeness urging him to 'seek a new challenge' this offseason.
Naturally, for a player of his pedigree, he isn't short of suitors. The inevitable links to China are there, Manchester United are reportedly also on alert, yet according to most German publications, it is the Gunners who are firm favourites to sign the central defender.
On the surface, a move for the German would appear to make some degree of sense. Centre-back is a position that first-team coach Unai Emery and Arsenal fans alike have identified as a clear point of weakness in this team.
Not only would Jerome Boateng plug a hole within the Arsenal backline, but he would also do so without wrecking the reported £40m budget the Gunners have for transfers this summer. SPORT BILD reported this morning that Bayern would be willing to depart with their player for a mere €15m (£13.3m), and in a world where Harry Maguire will set you back £80m, no one could claim that Arsenal were not getting a financially sound deal.
I am, however, careful in my words when I say that Arsenal would be getting 'a financially sound deal', rather than a good deal. That is because I don't believe Arsenal signing Boateng is a good deal.
The fairly reasonable transfer fee Arsenal would depart with, would be offset by high salary the player would command. Currently earning £120,000 per week out in Germany, there is little indication that the player would be willing to take a significant pay cut, should he come to North London.
That isn't to say that Arsenal cannot afford that type of salary. They indeed have plenty of comparative players earning similar figures. But therein of itself lies the problem. Arsenal's transfer policies these last few windows have been dictated by the ugly contracts of the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil. They were unable to purchase players back in January due to lying dangerously close to Financial Fair Play wages restrictions, and such adding another hefty contract to the books would be a perplexing use of limited resources.
However, the monetary side of the deal is only rearing its ugly head due to the question marks regarding Boateng as a footballer. Matthijs De Ligt, the young Dutch phenom, seemingly linked with every elite club in Europe, will cost a pretty penny to whoever lands him this summer. But does that play on the mind Barcelona fans? Do Man Utd fans take to Twitter to question whether he is worthy of the how many hundred thousands a week he will get paid? Well no, they don't. And that is because the player in question is a 19-year-old sensation, who is already regarded as one of Europe's best centre-backs.
However, for Arsenal, the man in question is a 30-year-old, who has struggled for form for nearly half a decade, and whose history of injuries mean they have regressed as footballer significantly in that time. So much so that one has to question where he would stand in the Arsenal pecking order. Is the German any better than Sokratis, Laurent Koscielny or Rob Holding? He does perhaps displace Shkodran Mustafi, though that isn't saying much these days.
One counter-argument that could be made in favour of Arsenal persuing Boateng, is the vital experience he would bring to the team. Winning is, after all, a good habit, and Boateng has won a lot over the last few years. But Arsenal deployed a similar school of thought when bringing in Stephan Lichsteiner last summer. The 1-year experiment was largely unsuccessful. Not only was he hapless on the pitch, but you sensed that he was a peripheral figure in the dressing room. The trophies he won in Italy appeared to count for little.
Perhaps Arsenal should therefore not be seeking out just winners, but rather leaders. Ozil won every trophy going when at Real Madrid, but could anyone really claim that the playmaker is born leader? If they did, then they certainly wouldn't dare mention him in the same breath as Adams or Viera.
Boateng, a largely reserved character, that only captained his side a handful of times over his career, I fear is not the big character needed to help fix a dysfunctional dressing room that has been void of leaders for over a decade
We are therefore left facing a potential deal that would appear to make little footballing, financial or psychological sense. Who's to say therefore that Arsenal don't pursue it vigorously? But seriously, I had envisaged the summer of 2019 to be a window of upheaval. One where Unai Emery would finally have the opportunity to gut and reshape this squad to his liking. One where old heads were moved on for young talents. Where an identity on and off the pitch would finally be formed. Unfortunately, I fear that the signing of Jerome Boateng would hark back to a time, in the not too distant past, where Arsenal lacked identity, lacked ambition, and ultimately lacked success.
From James Kennedy (@JamesKennedyTV)