Few 48 hours in the football career of Dedryck Boyata have as much riding on them for the permanent pleasures stored in his memory banks as those fast approaching.
The Celtic defender is like all others at the club in knowing full well just what is at stake in the Scottish Cup final against Motherwell. By Saturday evening he wants to be part of Scottish football’s first double-treble winning team. By Monday evening, the 27-year-old wants to have claimed a place in the Belgian squad for the forthcoming World Cup finals in Russia.
Until he joined the Manchester City youth set-up nine years ago, Boyata had never heard of Celtic. To play in the greatest footballing extravaganza is a hope he has harboured long before he was even nine years old, though. “It will be a huge 48 hours for me, but, as soon as the final is over, I am going on holiday,” he said. “When the squad is announced for the national team on the Monday morning, I’ll be on the plane, so I’ll find out later in the evening. I’ll be in the air. I won’t have a clue. A few hours later isn’t going to change anything.
“The final’s the first thing I will focus on and, if that goes well, then maybe the other’s going to come. But, of course, you never know. I want to go there (to Russia) and put in great performances for all the games I’ve played.
“I’m hopeful. It’s a dream I’ve had since I was younger. I missed the Euros because of an injury two years ago and it was hard.
“If I don’t go, I’ll be sad, I’m not going to lie, but it’s just how the game goes. For myself, for the moment, I’m just hoping. Of course, there is stress, but you just don’t know. That’s just how it is.
“I have worked hard to be in the selection this year. I don’t think I have missed one. But there are a lot of players in the squad and to get a place for the World Cup was always going to be difficult.
“I knew that at the beginning. All I have to do is keep playing my games, stay fit and then see what is going to happen, but that doesn’t mean that, if I play every game, I will be going. I am not the one making the choices.”
If Boyata had to pick a time in his life to be a Celtic player, he could hardly have chosen a better period than the present one. To “do the treble two times in a row” as no club have achieved “might be a good day in history for us” the softly-spoken says in understated fashion before warming to the theme that, in all probability, Saturday provides Brendan Rodgers’ men a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to achieve such a feat.
“We have had a wonderful year this year and last year,” he said. “We knew it would be very difficult to do what we did last season, but we still have the chance to win the treble and we might not have that chance again in the future.
“It is a big day for us. It is not going to be easy, of course, but, if we manage to do it, it will be a big day. As a player, you want to be part of the history and mark your name somewhere. If we can do it, it will be unbelievable for us.”
Cup finals are often the last hurrahs for teams. As there has been no movement on a new contract to replace his current deal that will expire next summer, Boyata has been placed in the camp of Celtic players with potentially uncertain futures beyond the campaign finale.
It is a reasonably lengthy one, with Kieran Tierney now said to be on the radar of Atletico Madrid as well as previously reported suitors such as Manchester United, Moussa Dembele permanently linked with a move away, and Tom Rogic and Stuart Armstrong content to run down the final months of their present deals.
Boyata, though, yesterday sounded more positive about extending a stay in Glasgow that began in June 2015 than at any previous point this season.
“I am in talks with the club,” said a player whose representatives had seemed to drag their heels in starting those discussions.
“I have said it before that I am happy here. Right now, nothing is done and it’s not like I can actually say what is going to be done. But I am in talks and we are trying to find some sort of arrangement.
“I am happy here. I have been talking a lot with the manager and trying to find a solution. I don’t want to say yes (I will sign a new contract) and then nothing happens later, but everything is just so positive. I am having a great time.”
These times could be about to become even better.