Celtic: Dedryck Boyata will be a success says ex-boss Owen Coyle
Celtic have signed a project in Dedryck Boyata. He is a player of undoubted potential, but at 24 he is now looking for the experience and game management skills to fulfil that promise.
"The reason that I chose Celtic is because they had a plan for me," the defender said.
Boyata is typical of a tier of players in the English Premier League whose careers stalled at a critical moment. Having signed for Manchester City as a promising youngster, and played for Belgium's international youth sides, Boyata was considered to have a bright future. Yet he has had to leave to develop further.
Examples abound of this status of player and Chelsea's 21-year-old forward Patrick Bamford, who spent the 2014-15 season on loan at Middlesbrough, is another prime example. Valued by their clubs because they are home-grown players, they remain on the squad lists for that reason despite having players ahead of them in the pecking order.
At one stage, Boyata had nine rivals for defensive positions at City - he can play anywhere across the back four - and came to the conclusion that he had to leave to further his career.
He played for City's first-team under Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, but it was dispiriting when his progress was curtailed by the club's transfer market strategy, such as buying the defender, Eliaquim Mangala, for £31.8m.
Boyata is tall, strong, quick and physically imposing. He spent two spells on loan during his time at Manchester City, with varying fortunes.
He started only one game for Twente Enschede during his loan spell in 2012-2013, and from his time in the Netherlands is recalled as being an intelligent, pleasant individual who played with a smile on his face, but who could not break into the first-team under Steve McClaren, who was Twente manager at the time. He left after six months to return to City.
His loan spell at Bolton Wanderers the season before was more rewarding, at least until injury struck. It was Owen Coyle who signed Boyata on loan and the Scot says that Celtic have signed a more than capable replacement for defender Jason Denayer, 19, who has returned to City from his loan spell at Celtic Park.
"They should expect to a see a very talented young player. He played at a very high level," Coyle said.
"There's no shame in not forcing yourself in front of [Vincent] Kompany, Mangala, the outstanding players that Manchester City have. [Celtic] are getting a young player who's quick, brave, technically very good, can play anywhere across the back four. And he's dangerous at set plays because he goes and attacks things.
"It's a very good bit of business, he's a wonderful young talent. He was a very talented young player when Manchester City signed him and nothing's changed in that regard.
"He's not had the number of games, being 24 now, that he would have wanted to have, but he's at one of the elite clubs in world football.
"What happened is, he had a loan spell at Bolton, went back and tried to get into the Manchester City first-team then had another loan spell. There are no negatives about it. He's a lovely young man, very humble, a team player. He'll come to show everybody what a talented player he is.
"He stepped in and he was a young man at that time coming into a dressing room with the likes of Kevin Davies in it, Johan Elmander, international players, and he more that held his own.
"He'll be outstanding for Celtic and he's now getting an opportunity to show his quality at a top European club. Everybody craves opportunity, then it's up to you to maximise it and I'm convinced that's what Dedryck will do."
Boyata was a member of the City side that won the FA Youth Cup in 2008 and he has now followed the likes of Vladimir Weiss, Kieran Trippier and Ben Mee in leaving the club.
Celtic have bought his potential. The club have successfully developed players from under-utilised markets in the past and the Boyata signing is a departure of sorts, since he is coming from the English Premier League, which is where Celtic have previously sold players to.
Nonetheless, at 24 and with hopes of playing for the Belgian national team, Celtic may have calculated that Boyata will provide solid service across his four-year contract and still represent a saleable asset. The club is certainly developing strong ties with City, having taken Denayer and John Guidetti on loan last season.
The Celtic manager, Ronny Deila, met Boyata personally to talk to him about moving to Glasgow and that level of engagement, plus the prospect of playing in the Champions League, was enough to persuade the player to try to progress his career at the Scottish champions.