COMMENT: POINT OF NO RETURN FOR BOYATA

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TROUBLED Fulham will be wasting their time if they attempt to make a second bid for Dedryck Boyata during the January transfer window.

Slavisa Jovanovic, who was sacked by the London outfit yesterday, made a £9million offer for Celtic’s Belgium World Cup central defender in August.

Veteran gaffer Claudio Ranieri has taken over the rock-bottom London team and has vowed to sort out their vulnerable defence that has conceded a landslide 31 goals in 12 Premier League outings following last season’s promotion.

However, the Italian can forget copying his predecessor’s wish list and looking to Parkhead for an answer to his team’s problems.

The Hoops dismissed the original move which led to Boyata allegedly downing tools and failing to travel to Greece for the Champions League qualifier against AEK Athens where the Hoops crashed out of Europe’s elite competition on a 3-2 aggregate.

It led to calls for the former Manchester City prospect to never be allowed to play for the team, but he made a sensational comeback when he scored the only goal of the game against Hamilton Accies at Parkhead on August 26.

Boyata was forced to miss the 3-0 Betfred League Cup semi-final triumph over Hearts at Murrayfield last moth through suspension after being red-carded in the 1-0 win over St Johnstone in the previous round. Apart from that encounter, he has been an ever-present in the champions’ rearguard since returning to action.

The back-four operator, who will be 28 a week on Tuesday, is out of contract at the end of the season and can leave the club for nothing. He could even negotiate a pre-contract with another club in January.

Only Boyata and his handlers will know what his plans are for the future, but a team that looks to be heading back to England’s second tier is highly unlikely to be viewed as an option.

Brendan Rodgers has already gone on record as admitting he hasn’t given up hope of Boyata remaining at Parkhead.

As reported in CQN earlier this month, the Celtic gaffer said: “There is always a possibility, but we just have to see. It is between him and the club.”

Former Chelsea and Leicester City gaffer Ranieri has been tasked with turning things around at Craven Cottage and told the club’s website: “As an Italian manager, for us the defensive way is the best for the team.

“It is important to have a strong vision of the defence – not just the full-backs or goalkeeper, all the team.”

Ranieri’s first game will be a week on Saturday against fellow-Premier League strugglers Southampton, with ex-Celt Stuart Armstrong hoping to play from the start.

In the meantime, Boyata is looking forward to a Betfred League Cup Final against Aberdeen at Hampden on December 2 as Celtic take another step towards a historic treble treble.

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