‘I’m not aware of that’: Neil Lennon denies Celtic’s Dedryck Boyata has agreed to join Hertha Berlin on free
- It was suggested in German media Dedryck Boyata had agreed a deal with club
- Boyata’s contract at Celtic runs out in the summer and it looked like he will leave
- But Neil Lennon suggested there is still a chance he could remain at Parkhead
Celtic manager Neil Lennon has played down reports that Dedryck Boyata has agreed to join Hertha Berlin in the summer.
It was suggested on Saturday in the German media that the Bundesliga club are confident of agreeing terms with Boyata on a pre-contract.
The Belgian centre-back is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and it had seemed previously that Lennon was resigned to losing him.
Dedryck Boyata has not agreed a deal with Hertha Berlin yet, according to Neil Lennon
After Boyata limped out of last weekend’s Old Firm match, the Parkhead boss admitted that the 28-year-old may have played his last game for Celtic.
That stance appeared to have changed, though, with Lennon revealing that the club have not yet given up hope of extending the player’s stay beyond the summer.
Speaking after his side’s goalless home draw with Livingston, Lennon said: ‘I’m not aware of that (a deal being agreed with Hertha). Dedryck was here at the game today.
‘I wouldn’t be surprised if there is interest in him but we are still hopeful that we can persuade him to stay, which would be great for everyone.’ Saturday’s stalemate with Livingston means that Celtic will not be crowned champions on Sunday, regardless of the outcome between Rangers and Motherwell at Fir Park.
Their quest for an eighth successive Premiership title will extend into the post-split fixtures, with a trip to face Hibernian at Easter Road their next league game in a fortnight.
Manager Lennon suggested Boyata had not agreed a deal and could still stay with Celtic
Before that comes a Scottish Cup semi-final showdown with Aberdeen at Hampden next weekend and Lennon has urged his team to be more ruthless in front of goal.
They had 18 shots on Saturday but were kept out by an outstanding display from Livingston goalkeeper Liam Kelly.
Accusing his team of being over-elaborate at times in the final third, Lennon said: ‘It’s frustration because we created great chances. Even in the 93rd minute we had a great chance to win it.
‘The performance was decent, the first half very good, the second half a little bit huffy and puffy.
‘We put a bit of width in the team and created some really good chances.
‘I just think we overplay it at times. We can get the ball forward quicker.’ The atmosphere at Celtic Park felt flat. There was almost a pre-season feel to it, which was a far cry from the Old Firm drama last weekend.
‘It was a total extreme from last week, the tension and intensity of the game,’ said Lennon. ‘Sometimes the fans need to be excited.
‘But the players did everything they could, particularly in the first half with the quality of football and the chances they created. We just lacked that bit of punch.
‘I think if we’d got the goal at any stage of the game, we’d probably have won comfortably.
Boyata was injured against Rangers and may have already played his final game for Celtic
‘We’re not firing on all cylinders at times and that has been prevalent since I’ve come in. But it’s not as if we are not creating the chances. We are.
‘It will be good to have a couple of days off to rest and recover and then focus on the semi-final. Look, we are in a great position – 14 points clear and, yes, Rangers have a game in hand but they have to win it.
‘If they do, it will only be 11 with five games to go, so I think we are in a very strong position. We know what we have to do and we’ve got a big semi-final to look forward to, so there’s a lot to be happy about.’
Celtic’s frustrations could have been eased in the 90th minute when Oliver Burke squandered a glorious opportunity to clinch all three points.
After Kelly had spilled the ball inside the box with what was his only error all afternoon, Burke shot wide from little more than six yards out.
‘I thought Oliver had scored and he probably knows he should have scored,’ continued Lennon. ‘But Livingston are good defensively and their goalkeeper excelled.’