When Middlesbrough announced the signing of George Boateng from Aston Villa in the summer of 2002, not even the most optimistic of their supporters would have been able to predict just how big of an impact that he would go on to have at the club.
Despite enjoying a fruitful three year spell with the Lions in which he was mainstay in the club’s starting eleven, the fact that the Smoggies were willing to splash out £6.21m (via Transfermarkt) to bring him to the Riverside Stadium was seen as somewhat of a risk at the time of purchase.
Yet from the very outset of his career at Boro, it was glaringly obvious that they had a superb player on their hands as his incredible ability to read the game combined with an unerring level of composure whilst on the ball soon led to him becoming a favourite amongst their fans.
Following an incredibly successful debut season in which he helped his side secure an 11th place finish in the Premier League, Boateng took his game to new heights during the 2003/04 campaign.
Almost always the first name on the team-sheet throughout the year, the former Netherlands international was utterly exceptional for Boro in their run to the League Cup final as he featured in all but one of their fixtures leading up to the big day.
Having tasted defeat in the FA Cup final whilst playing for Villa, Boateng was determined not to miss out on the possibility of winning silverware once again and therefore put his body on the line for the Smoggies during their showdown with Bolton Wanderers.
In what was an enthralling affair at the Millennium Stadium, goals from Joseph-Desire Job and Bolo Zenden secured victory for Boro and brought an end to their 128-year wait for their first ever triumph in a major cup competition.
Although Boateng did not grab the headlines in terms of scoring, he delivered a sterling performance in defensive midfield which played a crucial role in helping the club overcome a spirited Trotters side.
Following a season in which he was hampered by injuries, the former Coventry City ace returned to his best for the 2005/06 campaign as his outstanding level of consistency helped Boro reach the UEFA Cup final.
Despite being powerless to prevent a rampant Sevilla from crushing the Smoggies’ dreams of victory, Boateng’s superb standard of play in the competition helped to solidify his place as a cult hero at the Riverside Stadium.
After spending two further years at the club, the midfielder moved on to Hull City where he enjoyed a relative amount of success with the Tigers.
Even though Boateng has now been retired for six years, the fact that he is still remembered so fondly by Boro’s supporters in 2019 outlines just how big on an impact he had for the club during his 229 appearances between 2002 and 2008.
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