Celtic’s unwillingness to sell Dedryck Boyata last summer left him so frustrated that he consequently refused to travel with the team to Greece for a Champions League qualifier. However, reports in Sportsmail suggest that now Slaviša Jokanović has been replaced by Claudio Ranieri, there is renewed interest in the Belgian to reinforce Fulham’s dire defence.
The £9million move to Fulham looked almost certain last summer before Celtic made it clear they did not want to sell. Despite Boyata making it publicly clear he wanted to depart ways with Brenden Rogers and his team, they managed to hold on.
Intriguingly, Boyata has got on with life at Celtic Park and his solid defensive partnership has not fallen apart since the transfer saga. This has created even more momentum going into the upcoming January window, especially considering Fulham’s current Premier League predicament.
Including Ranieri’s first game in charge, a 3-2 win against Southampton, Fulham have now conceded 33 goals in 13 games. This is only their second win in a season which seems them sitting bottom of the table on goal difference alongside fellow strugglers Cardiff and Southampton.
Their woeful defending has seen the Cottagers concede five at home to Arsenal and four away at Cardiff, and the Cottagers no doubt need to strengthen their defence more than any other position because thanks to their aggressive Serbian forward Mitrović, on goals scored, Fulham are in fact 13th in the league.
Moreover, Boyata’s displeasure in Celtic withholding him until January is very well known to the public resulting in rumours of a departure south for the Belgian defender.
It is a difficult time to be a Fulham fan, however, it is significantly more difficult for the Fulham owners who previously entrusted Jokanović to invest heavily in the squad to avoid Premier League embarrassment, yet embarrassment is almost all that has come Fulham’s way so far this campaign.
After his predecessor spent almost £100million, Ranieri will undoubtedly have a very tight budget in which to manoeuvre through this January window on a defensive option. Yet, Boyata seems the obvious option.
Boyata was originally a product of the Manchester City youth academy, who after failing to break into the first team during the Sheikh Mansour takeover and failing to impress in successive loans, has eventually landed on his feet at Celtic.
After scoring on his competitive debut back in 2015 in a Champions League qualifier against Stjarnan, he has since made 119 appearances in all competitions.
His impressive form more recently has earned him a call-up to the Belgium World Cup squad and a player of this quality looks destined elsewhere.
At Celtic’s AGM last week, even Brendan Rodgers admitted: “He’s at the stage where he will assess everything and he is probably going to sign one of the biggest deals of his life over the next couple of months”.
Like Virgil Van Dijk before him, it seems Boyata will be the next impressive defender to move on from Celtic to the Premier League.