Dedryck Boyata has given a fascinating insight into Celtic’s troubled summer of 2018.
After two seasons in the Champions League and sweeping to a Double Treble the garden should have been rosy as Brendan Rodgers got to shape the club to his liking.
Rodgers was just over a year into his new four year contract but the first signs of discontent were setting in. Stuart Armstrong left for Southampton, Moussa Dembele was wanting away with Boyata approaching the final year on his contract having improved out of recognition from the 2015 signing by Ronny Deila.
In January 2018 Jack Hendry and Marvin Compper were signed but quickly it was clear that the German wasn’t upto scratch while the former Dundee defender was very much a work in progress, a project in Celtic terms.
At the World Cup Boyata proved to be a decent stand-in for Vincent Kompany, Belgium finished in third place with Boyata part of their success and in demand.
Celtic’s season was underway by the time the World Cup finished, back in Scotland things were getting rocky with Dembele injured, John McGinn heading for Aston Villa and an undercooked squad preparing to face AEK Athens.
There was a stand off with Boyata, Hendry and Kris Ajer were the central defence in Athens with Boyata copping the blame as he watched Celtic crash out from his home in Glasgow.
42 minutes, the Celtic fall out
Before the World Cup, my agent and myself spoke to Celtic to try and find an arrangement for the future. They spoke one, twice, that was from October and they never gave us anything till May then at that point I’m thinking, OK, there is something there but they are not really sure about what they want to do with me
Then there is the situation where the World up is coming, I really think but I’m not sure because I cannot speak for them, but I really did not think they expected me to go to the World Cup, or for me to play. So, I’m going into the World Cup, and I have one year left. So, we go to the World Cup, Kompany is injured, Vertongen is injured, I’m playing my games, everything is going well for myself, Vinny (Kompany) comes back but we ended up having a good World Cup, finished 3rd. Come back to Celtic, you know I had very good relations with Brendan Rodgers, honestly, it still is today but I think at that moment I got mixed up in a situation I’ve never been in. I had one year left and had all these teams coming in from left to right. From better leagues, there was Sevilla, I’m like ‘man’ everything is going through my head and I’m thinking what should I do, I’m speaking to Brendan Rodgers, trying to find a solution.
The days were going and going and that year was the year the transfer window was closing earlier than usual, it was early August and usually what we do at Celtic was we play qualifiers for the Champions League. So what happened is, I speak with the guys, I speak with the doctors, the coach, about the situation. Yes, I requested a transfer. I said ‘I have these teams behind me, I don’t know what’s going to happen for me in the future. I need to know what’s going on now.’
For myself it was a little bit difficult, it was the first time that I have been in this situation. At this time the trainer (Rodgers) was sending me to the Sports Director (Lawwell) and he sends me to the trainer. Go and speak to him and for myself it was a little bit difficult. I have never been in a situation where I am the villain. I’ve always been respectful, the good guy and now I’m like what is going on, I’m the villain.
So, when it comes to the transfer window I’m taking advise, I’m speaking to my people, what to do, blah blah blah blah blah. During the World Cup I played with big discomfort in my hamstring, everybody knew it.
When I came back that was the first thing I said (to Celtic) I’ve got this thing with my hamstring can you help me but at the same time you have the situation with big games coming up, qualifiers for the Champions League, it’s a big moment for the club- Dedryck can you help us or not. Me, yes but first try and find a solution for myself. Don’t play me, find a solution for myself, respect me, I will respect you. Anyway, I’m feeling my hamstring, so, these games are coming, I go and speak to the trainer, I tell him my situation, they ended up playing a game in Baku, then in Athens they lost the game.
Brendan Rodgers did an interview where he said “it’s difficult to win games when we have fit players at home, who don’t want to help the team’. And then, from this interview, I was watching the game, from this interview, what’s his name, Chris Sutton he was so hurtful. Honestly, he was so hurtful that I wrote down everything he said because I found myself in the position that like ‘oh my God what is going on now’. He said something like “you need to kick him out of the team, he’s thinking that he is bigger than the club, I don’t want to see him again!”
All these things going on, to be honest, in my situation, I think if I had this again I would have done things differently for sure because you make mistakes some times and these mistakes help you to be a better person. But at that moment this felt right, especially in that situation.
I spoke to every single player about my situation. – the captain, the goalkeeper… these guys were affected by the situation and I said ‘hey guys have a look at what is going on right now, what am I supposed to do. If you guys were in my position what would you do?’ Guys are giving my advice but at the same time they were affected by it, they wanted to go to the Champions League, they want the best team on the pitch and they are like ‘we need to find the best situation for Dedryck’
So, Chris Sutton said this, for me that was finished from that moment, finished. So I came back the day after and went to speak to the trainer (Rodgers), ‘How can you do this to me? You’ve been aware of my situation, we tried to find a solution and you’ve chucked me under the bus when we were aware of everything. He protected himself, he protected the team, and I was the bad guy. And from now on for me it’s finished but I am an employee and these guys are my employers. I need them if I want to go to another step.
At the 2018 World Cup Boyata was on the contract he got in 2015 when he moved from Manchester City to Celtic with team mates like Eden Hazard, Kompany, Kevin de Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois among the highest paid players in the world.