Jerome Boateng will be named kicker’s Player of the Year 2016, according to Bild. The honor for Boateng may be announced tomorrow before Bayern Munich’s season-opening showdown against Borussia Dortmund for the German Supercup. He will be the first defender (excepting goalies) to win the award since Jürgen Kohler in 1997 and Matthias Sammer himself in 1995-6.
Boateng thus will succeed 2015 winner Kevin de Bruyne, who logged an astonishing season with Wolfsburg before departing for Manchester City, and he joins an elite circle among his teammates: Manuel Neuer has won the award twice, in 2014 with Bayern and in 2011 with Schalke; Arjen Robben won in 2010, and Franck Ribery in 2008. Former Bayern captain Bastian Schweinsteiger won the award in 2013.
The vote for Boateng is remarkable in light of the fact that injuries prevented him from playing more than 19 Bundesliga matches for Bayern Munich, falling to an adductor injury in January that sidelined him until nearly the end of the season. But additional factors may have swayed kicker’s voters.
When Boateng was fit to play, he was almost perfect. With Boateng on the field, Bayern won 16 Bundesliga matches, lost 1, and drew 2. Boateng also played in Bayern’s first six Champions League matches (5-1) and returned from injury in time for the second semifinal match against Atletico, which Bayern also won - only to be eliminated on away goals.
Perhaps most gratifyingly, Boateng was fit for the DFB-Pokal final, where he played all 120 minutes in an epic victory over Dortmund. He would go on to anchor the German National Team on a deep Euro run before injury sidelined him in the team’s semifinal defeat to France. Many believed that his loss signaled the end for Germany. He was duly chosen for UEFA’s team of the tournament alongside teammate Joshua Kimmich.
Off the pitch, Boateng was the subject of unwanted media attention when extreme-right-wing politicians singled him out as a German they “like as a player but [...] don’t want to have as a neighbor.” The ensuing national outrage on Boateng’s behalf was overwhelming. That feeling of support for Boateng on top of his stellar Euro performance may have tipped the scales in favor of our favorite neighbor in Bayern Munich’s final third.
Congratulations, Jerome! Stay our neighbor for many years to come!
UPDATE: kicker has now published the news and revealed that Boateng received a whopping 163 of the total 674 votes cast, followed by Thomas Müller with 95 and Robert Lewandowski with 90.
Boateng has stated that he "did not at all expect this distinction." He added, "It’s almost unbelievable, the margin of victory also surprised me."
"I can't describe the thoughts that are going through my head. Of course, I'm incredibly proud that I could achieve something like this."