Brendan Rodgers maintained yesterday that Dedryck Boyata could be set on the immediate road to redemption at Celtic as long as he offers contrition over failing to make himself available for the club’s Champions League qualifier against AEK Athens.
Rodgers’ unequivocal rejection of the desperate-to-depart 27-year-old’s claim he was injured for Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat in Greece that sent the Scottish champions spinning out of the competition and into a Europa League qualifier away to FK Suduva this week had appeared to end any possibility of his playing again for Celtic.
However, in a dramatic turnaround, Rodgers suggested the Belgian could be in the frame for the Lithuanian qualifier simply by acknowledging the error of his ways. The Irishman likened the situation to that which he experienced with Luis Suarez at Liverpool when the Uruguayan almost led the Anfield club to the title following a summer of unrest when he took the hump over being refused a move to Arsenal. And Rodgers insisted there would be no issues over the Celtic squad and supporters accepting back into the fold Boyata, pictured, whose refusal to play followed Celtic’s unwillingness to accept a £9m bid from Fulham for him.
“I had a long chat with Dedryck the other day. We have just created a wee bit of distance from what happened last week but we will look at that over the course of the weekend and beginning of next week. If Dedryck is still a Celtic player, of course I want to have him involved. He’s been with us for a couple of years and I know he’s a good guy. Everyone makes mistakes but I also think if there is a mistake made, sometimes it’s not the way in modern life, people need a chance to redeem themselves. If it’s the case, I would like to have him involved because he’s a top-class player.”
Asked if that meant Boyata could resume his career because he had apologised, Rodgers said: “Whatever has been said will be internal but of course before anyone will join the group that will always have to be the case to staff and to players. If you take it when he joins the group that will be the case.”
The Celtic manager said “absolutely” he could be considered for Suduva in that scenario and the other players, thought to be angry at Boyata’s conduct, would draw a line under the matter. “They will [accept him back] because they are an honest group. They are winners. We want to win, they are always demanding but they are a very honest and humble group. Of course last week we wanted players and some of our players weren’t available for a number of reasons but this is a group that’s very much together.”
Similarly with a Celtic support who wanted the player hung, drawn and quartered last week. Rodgers said: “The Celtic supporters are demanding but they also accept as well and I think if Dedryck puts on the shirt again then I know he will be as committed as ever and if you show that commitment then the Celtic support will always be behind you.”
Meanwhile, Leigh Griffiths, who netted in the club’s 3-1 Betfred Cup win away to Partick Thistle, has conceded that the cheap nature of the two goals given to AEK in midweek means Celtic weren’t worthy of progress to the Champions League play-offs.
Griffiths said: “We dominated the ball going forward and on another night we’d have scored three or four. But it’s about defending. And if we can’t do that we don’t deserve to be in the Champions League.”