Kevin-Prince Boateng is looking forward to returning to the Olympiastadion when his Schalke side visit his former club Hertha Berlin on Saturday.
Boateng, 26, spent his formative years with Hertha, and between 2005 and 2007 made 42 league appearances for the capital club before joining Tottenham Hotspur for 7.9 million euros.
The Berlin-born Ghana international had been part of a golden generation at Hertha but, upon leaving as a 20-year old in 2007, he said: “If things don’t work out here, the youngsters are blamed for it. They are downgraded and kept down.”
The other members of that Hertha generation are now scattered to the four winds -- with perhaps the most notable being Jerome Boateng, Kevin-Prince’s half-brother, who at 25 is playing for European champions Bayern Munich and has established himself as a full Germany international.
Patrick Ebert, 26, currently plays for La Liga outfit Real Valladolid, while Ashkan Dejagah, 27, joined Fulham in 2012 and Chinedu Ede, 26, is struggling for first-team opporunities at Mainz.
Only Anis Ben-Hatira, 25, who began his Bundesliga career at Hamburg, currently wears the Hertha BSC jersey.
All of them, in recent interviews, have expressed a desire to end their career at Hertha BSC, and Kevin-Prince recently said: “That’s my biggest dream.”
Now, Boateng -- who has also spent time with Borussia Dortmund, Portsmouth and AC Milan -- is excited to be returning to Berlin’s Olympiastadion for the first time.
“I am totally looking forward to the match against my former club,” he told Hertha’s official website. “It is something very special to me, to play there where it all started many years ago.”
Sentiment will not weaken his desire to secure the victory, however, as Schalke look to keep pace with the top three in the Bundesliga.
“It will be a hard-fought match but, after 90 minutes, we want to leave the pitch as the winners and take all three points home to Gelsenkirchen,” he said. “It is important we continuously pick up points and close the gap to the top. We have shown we have high quality in our team -- now we need to take the next step and become more consistent.”
Hertha sporting director Michael Preetz feels Boateng represents a real danger to his side.
“He has taken a few diversions, but he now comes back as a top player of international class,” Preetz said in kicker.
Meanwhile, Ben-Hatira has spoken to the Berliner Zeitung newspaper about his youthful experiences as part of the Hertha group.
They had played on urban pitches -- dubbed ‘monkey cages’ due to the fencing that surrounds them -- in the Wedding district of Berlin, and the midfielder said: “We spent 80 percent of our time in the Wedding monkey cages.
“We played in five, six cages around the district. Losing was never an option. Once, in a Hertha youth team, we won all but one match in a season. We drew the other one. It felt like a defeat.”
Ben-Hatira is looking forward to Boateng’s return on Saturday.
“Every single one of us has the makings of a great footballer,” he added. “I bow down to Kevin. In Milan, he played with Ronaldinho and [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic -- that is a different level altogether.”