His smile fitted in nicely with the good weather in Neuruppin, where the Blue-Whites have been preparing hard for the 2019/20 Bundesliga season. This is the first of two training camps for Hertha this summer. Dedryck Boyata reflects on his first few days at the club whilst sitting on the sunny terrace at the team hotel. “It feels incredible to be here,” said the 28 year-old. “The players and coaching team have given me a lovely welcome and have made settling into the club very easy. I’ve only been here a matter of 72 hours but I know nearly everyone’s name,” grins the centre-back.
The Belgian international is currently battling back from a serious muscle injury sustained in the Old Firm derby back at the end of March. However, the former Celtic centre-back is nearing is a return. Boyata is currently working with Hertha rehabilitation coach Hendrik Vieth on a return to team training and is patiently waiting for his opportunity. “That is ok. It is important to take it one step at a time and to work towards a return to team training. Additionally, new Blue-Whites head coach Ante Čović is followed a relaxed plan for his return. “We’re monitoring his progress each day to decide when is best for him to return to team training. His heart bleeds if he is unable to train with the rest of the squad. However, it is more sensible to be cautious after such a long time out with injury. It is important for him to be close to the rest of the team and to quickly settle down. He is a very nice person and a very experienced player who has enjoyed a lot of success so far in his career. Consequently, we chose to sign him.”
Successes in the UK
Boyata has made the summer switch to the Blue-Whites from Celtic despite numerous clubs declaring an interest in the Belgian centre-back. “Michael Preetz explained a lot about the Hertha family to me and outlined how the club functions. As a result, the manager made it clear to me what ambitions Hertha have for the next few years. He found the right words to convince me to join. It proved to be an easy decision,” said Boyata who moved to England to play for Manchester City after progressing through the FC Brussels youth ranks. “I learned a lot there (Manchester City) and gathered a lot of important experience. This was also the case during my loan spells at Bolton Wanderers and FC Twente,” said the new signing on reflection of his career to date. Boyata also knows fellow Hertha defender Karim Rekik during the pair’s time at Manchester City. Rekik was still under contract at the Citizens as Boyata moved to Celtic in 2015. The Belgian went on to win four league titles as well as three Scottish Cups and three Scottish League Cups before leaving for Berlin this summer.
Tough competition awaits Boyata for a starting place at centre-back in Berlin but the Belgian views this as a positive thing. “It is extremely important to have multiple good players at one position if you want to be successful. I’m here to help increase our quality as a team compared with what we had before.” Boyata started his career as an attacking midfielder and it is unsurprising to know that his role models included Thierry Henry, Ronaldo and Michael Owen. “I moved further back on the pitch each year. I then started playing as a defender and started to analyse my game more precisely. As I started to get a better understanding of the game, I initially had Lucio as an idol before moving to Thiago Silva and Thomas Vermaelen. I wanted to learn from those players.” Boyata also benefited from having Vincent Kompany, Kolo Touré and Joleon Lescott as teammates to learn from in Manchester.
Physically strong and able to play in multiple positions
Boyata has been described as a versatile defender who is physically strong, fast and good in the air. The Belgian also likes to get involved in build-up play. “I feel most comfortable in the centre-back position either in a back four or a back three. I can also play on both flanks and have played in several positions both for Celtic and the Belgian national team. It all depends on where the head coach and the team need me to play!” Čović will be happy to hear that even if he will have to be patient to see the new signing back on the pitch. Boyata is hugely excited for when this eventually happens: “I’ve arrived in Berlin with a huge smile.”