Kevin Prince Boateng wanted to 'run' to Barcelona after hearing of interest
BARCELONA, Spain -- Kevin Prince Boateng has said he wanted to run to Barcelona when he found out the La Liga leaders were genuinely interested in signing him this month.
Barca completed one of the most surprising moves of the transfer window on Monday when they signed Boateng from Italian side Sassuolo on an initial six-month loan. They have an option to make the deal permanent for €8 million in the summer.
Boateng, who has played in Germany, England, Spain and Italy, has joined the club as back-up to Luis Suarez following the sale of Munir El Haddadi to Sevilla. The former Ghana international was first made aware of Barca's interest on Saturday and said the last few days have been surreal.
"I am really, really happy," he said at his presentation on Tuesday. "These last two days have been two of the most incredible days in my life.
"It is a great honour to be here. I want to enjoy it and I want to win everything. I was a little sad on Monday morning saying goodbye [to Sassuolo teammates].
"We had a good group but I explained that this was an opportunity I could not miss. I told my agents I wanted to run to Barcelona when I found out about the interest, I didn't want to [wait for] a plane!"
With Suarez, Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho already competing for the forward spots at Camp Nou, Boateng said he knows that he has not been brought in to play regularly. Barca sought him out to provide depth as they remain in the hunt for the treble.
"I have not spoken with the coach [Ernesto Valverde] yet but I know my role is not a starter," he said. "There are incredible players in the team here.
"I am here for my experience and to help. That's what I want: to help when I can. At my age -- 31, nearly 32 -- the No.9 role is perfect for me. But it is important to adapt to whatever the team and the coach need."
Boateng said he is "ready" to play against Sevilla on Wednesday in Barcelona's Copa del Rey quarterfinal after playing 90 minutes for Sassuolo at the weekend and hopes his performances will end up earning him an extended stay at the club.
"For me, this is a test to be able to prolong my stay here," he said. "That's why I am here and that is my objective. I want more years here."
Asked during his news conference about bringing Boateng to Barca, Valverde explained the reasons behind the decision.
"He's a player that knows the job even though he has made his career elsewhere, not as a no. 9 like he's playing now," Valverde said. "He knows the Spanish league. Also knows the role he's coming to play. He was available and fitted the club's requirements.
"Differences with Munir? That's obvious: Munir left, his and the club's decision, and we looked at different solutions, and Boateng was the best option. We hope he helps us until the end of the season ..."
He added: "One of the reasons he's here is because he's been playing and he's absolutely ready to play. We have a lot of games coming up and idea is that he takes part and he can help."
Valverde addressed criticism of the deal, with Boateng seen as an odd choice for a club contending on three fronts.
"Since I have been here, there's been criticism of a lot of transfers. With Paulinho, with Arturo Vidal... and look how they have then gone on to perform. We would like to have forwards in the B team scoring goals, but that's not the case. Boateng's here for a few months to help," he said.
Boateng is Barca's second January signing after defender Jeison Murillo joined from Valencia, also on an initial six-month loan. There are unlikely to be more arrivals but the club are already working on a deal for Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong to join in the summer.
"That is a question more for the player than for me," sporting director Eric Abidal said when asked if he was optimistic about landing De Jong at Boateng's presentation. "He will make his decision.
"We can just wait, like everyone. He knows there is interest form a lot of clubs and will make his own mind up."