As much as you try to deny and admit that it’s the case, Celtic are a selling club. They may be one of the most historically successful teams in Europe but the Bhoys haven’t had much success keeping hold of their prized assets.
It’s a trend that could come back to bite them again this summer. Odsonne Edouard has attracted the interest of both Arsenal and Leicester.
He could be another name to add to the pile of those who have thrived at Celtic but then sought the exit door. Moussa Dembele and Kieran Tierney are two of the latest names but if we go back further, Victor Wanyama, Virgil Van Dijk and Fraser Forster all come to mind.
One player who has rather gone under the radar throughout his career, however, is Derdyck Boyata.
The centre-back struggled to make the breakthrough at Manchester City, an eventuality that has struck down plenty before him. Though, after a move to Glasgow, he found a home in Paradise.
Celtic treated him well and he became a pillar of four straight SPFL wins. Under Brendan Rodgers, the duo were a force, so much so that the Northern Irishman called him “top-class.”
Boyata played 135 times for the Hoops but left under a cloud of smoke in controversial circumstances.
In 2018, the Belgian was called up by his national team for the World Cup. This was a surprise for the centre-half but it was recognition that changed the course of his career.
He returned from Russia a man in demand and as he entered the final year of his contract with the Bhoys, Boyata wanted a move. Fulham reportedly bid £9m for his services but that was knocked back by Rodgers and co.
Speaking last week, he revealed what happened: “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 go to the World Cup, and I have one year left. So we ended up having a good World Cup, finished 3rd. Come back to Celtic. I had very good relations with Brendan Rodgers. I got mixed up in a situation I’ve never been in. [I had] all these teams coming from left to right.”
Boyata continued: “That was the year the transfer window was closing earlier than usual. 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’.”
It was a complex situation. Without knowing the full details initially, it looked as though the defender refused to play for Celtic again. Rodgers left him at home for a crucial Champions League qualifier against AEK Athens despite the player being fit. The Glaswegian’s ultimately lost and Boyata was the one who took the blame.
He was understandably rocked by it, commenting: “Brendan Rodgers had 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’. From this interview, Chris Sutton was so hurtful. Honestly, he was so hurtful that I wrote down everything he said. He said something like “you need to kick him out of the team!”
Boyata concluded: “From that moment, I was finished. I came back the day after and went to speak to [Rodgers]. “How can you do this to me? How can you put me in the situation? You know everything that was going on, you were aware of everything”. He protected himself, he protected the team, and I was the bad guy.”
The 30-year-old did play for Celtic again. In fact, he played 32 matches for the Hoops in 2018/19.
However, he was clearly in no mood to stay. The Belgium international saw out his contract and departed for Hertha Berlin on a free transfer.
The £9m they could have sourced for the defender a year previous had clearly gone begging, but they could have fetched even more.
After all, John Hartson made a remarkable assessment during the 2018 World Cup: “If John Stones is £50m then Boyata is in same bracket. Celtic should be in his hotel room now with a contract offer.”
Since leaving, the former Man City man has become a Bundesliga and Belgium regular. In the process, his value has risen to the £8.1m mark.
Hertha undoubtedly got the better end of the deal here. Celtic should have cashed in when they had the chance.