BRENDAN RODGERS brought some light relief to the ongoing contract saga of Dedryck Boyata at Celtic’s Lennoxtown training HQ yesterday.
The Belgian international centre-half has been involved in controversial transfer speculation since he returned from starring with his nation during the World Cup Finals in the summer.
The Scottish champions rejected a £9million offer for the 28-year-old defender from newly-promoted Fulham on the Premier League deadline day in August – and sparked reports of the back-four operator downing tools in response.
Boyata missed the crucial Champions League qualifier against AEK Athens in the Greek capital as the Hoops lost 2-1 in the second leg to tumble out of Europe’s elite tournament on a 3-2 aggregate. There were protests among a section of the champions’ fans and former players about the player ever being allowed to wear the green-and-white hooped shirt again.
However, the classy former Manchester City prospect, bought by ex-boss Ronny Deila for £1.5million in the summer of 2015, returned and, astonishingly, scored the only goal of the game against Hamilton Accies on August 26.
RISE AND SHINE…Dedryck Boyata clears against Hamilton Accies.
Ever since then, he has been a mainstay in Rodgers’ back four, missing only two games – the 3-0 Betfred League Cup semi-final win over Hearts due to suspension and the 1-1 midweek draw with Motherwell because of a hamstring problem sustained in the 1-0 Hampden triumph over Aberdeen on Sunday.
During the week, Celtic fans were intrigued as an image appeared on the player’s Instagram video with a contract and pen sitting in front of him.
A clearly-surprised Rodgers was quizzed live on TV about the pictures before the match at Fir Park on Wednesday and said he would talk to the player the following day.
At the media conference yesterday, the Irishman was asked for an update regarding Boyata’s future.
This time he was prepared for the question. Rodgers replied: “He’s signed a new five-year deal.”
The remark was greeted by silence from the press pack before the Hoops gaffer smiled and the penny dropped.
Rodgers added: “Well, you asked the question didn’t you?
“What was it? On social media or something? Anti-social media? Well, there you go, that tells you everything.”
In the real world, Boyata will miss the visit of Kilmarnock today with Jozo Simunovic and his fellow-Croatian Filip Benkovic likely to be in the heart of the rearguard again.
* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from this afternoon’s Premiership match at Parkhead – in your champion CQN.