Derk Boerrigter exit ‘best for player and Celtic’

Derk Boerrigter signed for Celtic in 2013. Picture: SNS
Derk Boerrigter signed for Celtic in 2013. Picture: SNS
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It illustrates just how far out of the picture Derk Boerrigter is at Celtic when one considers Anthony Stokes is currently far more likely to get a game than he is.

Ronny Deila, the Celtic manager, spent much of his pre-Motherwell match press conference discussing how he is not yet ready to give up on Stokes, despite various misdemeanours and often questionable attitude.

But it seems he is not extending the benefit of such patience to Boerrigter, who he confirmed has been available for selection since the summer. Just not fit, it seems, to pull on the Celtic jersey.

He last appeared for the club in August. That is August 2014. He last started a game in May 2014, two seasons ago, but was replaced on that occasion, against St Johnstone, at half-time. Injury did admittedly hamper his progress in the early days at Celtic, when so much was expected of someone who cost a reported £3 million from Ajax. Neil Lennon, the manager who signed Boerrigter, later insisted the true fee was nearer £1 million.

He was forced off on his debut against Ross County with a niggling ankle injury and has never got going again, scoring just once, against Aberdeen two years ago last month. “Disappointing” was how Lennon summed up the player’s first season at the club.

But the Northern Irishman left later that summer. His Boerrigter problem was inherited by Deila, who, it seems clear, has been left unimpressed by the winger’s willingness to coast. Damningly, he points out there is no question he is a good player. Deila also confirms there are no lingering injury issues, as far as he is aware.

Which makes the player’s current plight – training with the development squad, with no hope of selection for today’s game against Motherwell, or any other match – all the more perplexing. Boerrigter heads the list of recent misfit Celtic forwards from abroad, those who came with great fanfare but who then disappeared almost without trace. See also Aleksandar Tonev, Teemu Pukki and Stefan Scepovic, who, while still with Celtic, is currently on a season-long loan at Getafe.

Of course, Boerrigter has not been helped by James Forrest’s return to form and fitness, or the signing of Gary Mackay-Steven, another player who plays on the wing. Stuart Armstrong, meanwhile, has also been deployed out of position to provide width, a further damning assessment of Boerrigter’s current standing.

Then, there’s yesterday’s news about Leigh Griffiths, who has bounced back after a period when he, too, looked set to fall short in answering Deila’s demands for a good attitude combined with productivity on the pitch. Now he is celebrating a new five-year contract. By contrast, it seems Deila is desperate to get Boerrigter out of the door.

“I think this has gone so far now that it is good for him and good for everybody that he tries to find a place to play because he is not a youngster,” said the manager. “He is a guy who should be a good age to play football.

“I think it’s good for him to start playing games somewhere. He’s a good football player but he hasn’t reached it here. We’ll see if something happens in this window.

“In the beginning he was injured for almost a year,” he added. “Now, he hasn’t been injured. He’s in training. We have to pick a squad and we felt that we had other players that were better than him.”

It isn’t a great reference for Boerrigter to hand to other interested clubs at a critical juncture of his career. He turns 30 next year. It is possible to sense some frustration in Deila in relation to the player’s seeming contentedness to remain where he is, despite the lack of first-team action.

The player is under contract for one more full season. Understandably, Deila doesn’t want to go into detail about why he won’t turn to Boerrigter, even just to include him among the substitutes. “That’s something that has to be between me and Derk,” he said. “It hasn’t worked out and it is not right for me to talk about it.”

But the mystery of Boerrigter is deepened when it is remembered that he was once reckoned to have great potential at Ajax, where as well as scoring against Real Madrid in a Champions League game he scored six goals in the Dutch club’s title-winning season of 2012/13.

Deila questions just how established Boerrigter was at Ajax when Celtic signed him. After all, the Dutch club are not in the habit of selling players to Scottish teams who they suspect can still do a job for them. “You don’t buy finished articles,” said Deila. “When you buy players from Ajax you know they are not selling us their best player. ”

Now Deila is determined to source signings who clubs will go on to regret 
letting go. “It has to be a player that suits us more than them,” he said. This hasn’t been the case with Boerrigter, whose disappearance to reserve-team football in Scotland means Ajax can feel satisfied with their side of that particular deal.