Even Marco Richter had a leading role in the end. The offensive player from Hertha BSC, signed before the season and a real reinforcement at the beginning of the season, was not used in the second leg of the relegation against HSV. But when the bus was waiting in the basement of the Hamburger Arena for departure to Berlin, Richter quickly dragged a crate of beer from the cabin.

It was a product from the portfolio of the HSV beer sponsor, which suggested two things: that the Hamburgers – firstly – were fair losers after the 0: 2 against the Berliners. And that – secondly – ​​Hertha had apparently prepared poorly. Possibly out of superstition. But maybe also because the Berliners no longer believed in this turnaround after the 0-1 in the first leg.

Kevin-Prince Boateng resolutely opposed such interpretations. Doubt? There wasn’t. “We’ve known since yesterday that we’re going to perform the same here,” said the informal leader of the Berliners. “You could feel it on the bus. You could feel it in the hotel. We knew we would stay in the league.”

Nevertheless, there was something wondrous about the resurrection of the Berlin sports club Hertha in Hamburg’s Volkspark. “We did what everyone didn’t believe,” said Boateng. Not after the first leg four days earlier, after the pathetic sporting performance of the first division team against the second division and above all not after the vibrations that this defeat had triggered.

In the days that followed, rumors circulated that coach Felix Magath had lost the team. The “Kicker” even reported that the club was considering changing coaches again before the final duel. It rumbled in the team, it should even have rattled properly. And then that. “We had nothing left to lose, that’s how we played from the first minute,” said central defender Marc Kempf.

The Berliners had a plan, and the fact that an eager exegesis was carried out afterwards as to who was responsible for this plan told a lot about the conditions within the team and within the club. Hertha played with a diamond in midfield. Central defender Kempf explained that this gave the team the opportunity to mirror HSV’s system, to play man-to-man in midfield and to constantly put the opponent under pressure. “Prince had a big part in it,” said Kempf.

At the press conference, Magath was confronted with the thesis that Kevin-Prince Boateng had made the line-up and asked if he could help clarify it. “There’s nothing to explain,” he replied. “Boateng set up the team. We’re all happy that we made it.” Like so many things with Magath, it remained a mystery whether that was meant seriously or sarcastically.

In the end it didn’t matter. Hertha stays in the Bundesliga because Magath has fulfilled his mission. He quickly stabilized a stumbling crew – and then, shortly before the rescue, unsettled them a bit again with his erratic statements. According to Magath, there will never be a continuation of the cooperation. “I take it for granted to pack my things in Berlin and go home again,” said the 68-year-old.

It was also a stressful affair for him, as he said, “a very, very difficult number with Hertha”. Magath looked exhausted after the last game, almost a little exhausted. “Even though it’s only been nine weeks, I’m quite stressed from these games,” he admitted. “I’m now looking forward to my home again.”

The fact that things ended very close won’t diminish Magath’s fame any more than the question of who was the coach in the final game: Felix Magath on the sidelines? Or Kevin-Prince Boateng on the pitch? “He gave me a free hand today,” said Boateng. “Not many coaches do that, trusting a player like that.” And so the veteran player expressed great respect for the veteran coach for “what sensitivity he has and how he treated me”.

It was an actually impossible love story that found its melodramatic end on Monday. When Magath came to Berlin in mid-March, quite a few thought that that was it for the now 35-year-old Boateng – because with his battered body he was no longer up to Magath’s idea of ​​football.

But instead of finally pushing Boateng onto the sidelines, the coach promoted him to boss. “He’s a special guy, I’m a special guy,” said Boateng. “It was clear: Either we crash into each other. Or we get along great. We get along really well.”

Kevin-Prince Boateng clearly had fun – in the analysis after the game as well as before on the pitch. It felt like he hadn’t lost a single duel in the Volksparkstadion, even when the four men from Hamburg pounced on him and surrounded him.

Boateng made 21 appearances in the 39 competitive games this season. He was never on the pitch for more than 70 minutes. Until what is perhaps the most important encounter of the entire season. He was only substituted in the 90th minute. “Prince Boateng played a very important role in this game,” said Magath. It was the role he was meant to play from the start, and he never did better than in this game.

“Today the Prince was back. When it comes down to it, I’ll be back,” said Boateng to the journalists in the mixed zone. “You can write that too. That’s a nice headline: The Prince is back.”

Boateng’s contract with Hertha is now up. But when Fredi Bobic, Hertha’s sporting director, announced the day after which players would definitely leave the club, his name was not among them. “I still feel like it,” said Kevin-Prince Boateng. “I’m feeling good.”