DEDRYCK Boyata looked a broken man as he hobbled off early in Celtic’s Scottish Cup now infamous semi-final with Rangers in April 2016.

The defender had endured, with all due respect, a nightmare of a game. The noise, pace and all over craziness of that fixture appeared to have got to the young Belgian.

And then he tweaked his hamstring. The Celtic fans didn’t know he was injured at the time and many felt Ronny Deila had made a mercy substitution. If that had been the case, Boyata would have had few complaints.

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He didn’t play again that season. He didn’t make it to the European Championships with Belgium which he was pencilled in for and his future in Glasgow back then looked fairly bleak.

It was seven months before the former Manchester City player was seen again when he made a surprise appearance at Rugby Park under Brendan Rodgers for the very first time.

Boyata, bless him, looked unsteady, unfit and out of place on Kilmarnock’s plastic pitch in a Celtic side which had been transformed under the new manager.

And now?

Well, this centre-half yesterday spoke about his dream coming true as he looked ahead to representing his county in the World Cup in Russia.

Boyata, had he been fit two years ago, would have been a squad player. However, there is every chance the Celtic man will be a starter for Roberto Martinez whose young and exciting Belgian side have a better than decent chance of having a good tournament with some, and your humble correspondent is among this number, even suggesting them as an outside bet to win the whole thing.

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It has been some story, a remarkable transformation for the 27-years-old who is still capable of the odd lapse in concentration, but who ended the season strongly as he helped Celtic into the history books

Boyata said: “Two years ago a last-minute injury prevented me from going to the Euros and fulfilling my dream.

“Since then I’ve never let go and with Celtic we’ve made Double Treble history.

“Today it is a great honour for me to represent Belgium at the World Cup and make my childhood dream come true. Many thanks for your support.”

Good on him.

Boyata in person is a likeable and articulate guy. He’s clearly intelligent and, bless him, even seems to enjoy speaking to the press when it’s his turn. He always has something to say and says it really well.

He is an impossible guy not to like and root for.

With Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen struggling for fitness – Kompany will do well to get any game-time, - it’s the Scottish-based player who is favourite to start Belgium’s Group G opener against Panama on June 18.

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Then it’s Tunisia and on June 28 a game with England which could well be on the highlights of the group stage.

“Dedryck has been a big player for Celtic for the past 18 months when he has shown resilience to earn back his place and become one of the key players for Brendan,” said Martinez recently.

“When he got back into the team, I told him that I would watch his progress and it was in an Old Firm game, which is the big test in Scotland, when I saw he was back to his best.

“Dedryck has never let us down and I would have no fears about playing him in a World Cup.”