I CAN understand why Neil Lennon is still hopeful that Dedryck Boyata will decide to stay at Celtic beyond the summer despite suggestions over the weekend that is poised to join Hertha Berlin.

But I would be very surprised indeed if the Belgian centre half stays in Glasgow. And I am sure Neil knows the player is likely to depart too. I just don’t think the Parkhead club can afford to keep him.

Boyata’s agent will have been making full use of the fact his client can leave on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of next month.

Let’s say he is worth £10m in the current market. Clubs will be prepared to give him that in wages because they can bring him in for free. So Boyata can ask for £100,000-a-week or even more and get it. Celtic can’t compete with that.

Evening Times: Dedryck Boyata walks onto the pitch at Celtic ParkDedryck Boyata walks onto the pitch at Celtic Park

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It is similar to what Aaron Ramsey is doing at Arsenal just now. He will leave the Emirates for nothing in the summer and go onto a ridiculous contract at Juventus. It is the reality of modern football.

The fact that Boyata wasn’t sold last summer when Fulham were prepared to offer £9m or in the January transfer window either will mean that Celtic won’t receive a single penny for the defender. But that was very much their call.

They could have got £6 or £7m for him at the start of the year. But they decided to keep him because they were short of cover in his position. By doing that, they waived their right to a fee for him.

I actually thought that the lad got his head down after not travelling to Greece for the Champions League qualifier against AEK Athens in August.

He got a lot of criticism of that, was told he had let his club and his team mates down, was accused of feigning injury in an attempt to engineer a transfer. But he has put the episode behind him and done well. It is almost as if he has been trying to play for a move.

Boyata won’t be the last player to depart Celtic in the close season. Filip Benkovic will go back to Leicester City and Jeremy Toljan will return to Borussia Dortmund.

I am not sure if Celtic will decide to give Mikael Lustig another year even though I know that Neil likes him and has been playing him in recent weeks.

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That will leave Celtic short defensively. They can’t put themselves in a position where they only have Kristoffer Ajer, Jack Hendry and Jozo Simunovic. If one of them was to get injured they would be in trouble.

There is an awful lot of work to be done. Not just at the back either. Up front, Oliver Burke and Timothy Weah could go back to West Brom and Paris Saint-Germain respectively. Vakoun Issouf Bayo is right out of the picture. Scott Sinclair, too, hasn’t been featuring regularly. A date can’t be put on Leigh Griffith’s return.

The William Hill Scottish Cup final will be played at the end of May and the Champions League qualifiers will be played in late June.

That gives Celtic four weeks to make a decision on Neil’s future, let him get his players in, ship the members of his squad who he doesn’t want out, decide on their pre-season plans. There is an awful lot of work to do in a short space of time.

If Celtic aren’t giving it to Neil, they have to go and get a manager in quickly. The new man has to come in, get to know the group and then hit the ground running in the Champions League qualifiers. It will be very, very difficult.