ON the day Dedryck Boyata last played a competitive game of football, Hibernian still hadn’t won the Scottish Cup for 114 years, Britain and the rest of the European Union were getting on swimmingly, and you would have got pretty long odds on Wales going on to reach the semi-finals of the European Championships.

A lot has changed, then, since the Belgian sustained an injury in the Scottish Cup defeat to Rangers four months ago. He missed his team-mates lift a fifth successive league championship, manager Ronny Deila’s exit, the arrival of Brendan Rodgers and the start of a new era at Celtic.

Perhaps most significantly, that hamstring strain also deprived him place at the Euros where, with Vincent Kompany also sidelined, he could feasibly have started every game for Belgium. Little wonder a sense of regret accompanies his reflections on a summer spent on the treatment table rather than on the pitch.

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HeraldScotland: Celtic's Dedryck Boyata (left) barely slept after last year's Champions League setbackHe is back now, however. The International Champions Cup – despite its lofty title – may not be the most important of competitions in Celtic’s calendar but, for Boyata, Saturday’s match against Internazionale in Limerick represented the end of his rehabilitation and the start of what he hopes will be a long and successful season. He wears the look of a man determined to make up for lost time.

“The lowest point for me last season was the day I got injured with the national team because I was guaranteed to be in the 23-man squad for the Euros,” he reflected.

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“As a footballer, that is something you can only dream of and getting injured made me really low and was a really down time in my life. But you can only learn from these things. If you don’t get stronger, you’ll never get back up. We know football, there are always ups and downs.

“The Champions League last year was a big goal, so was the Euros. But we won the league and that was also a big goal, so now it’s about a new season and getting back to the fitness that I feel I should have to help the team. Has what happened made me stronger as a man? Yes, of course.

“What’s the expression? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. In life, there is more than football, but that is what we do and it’s our life right now. Going through these times and periods is always difficult, but you can only think about coming back, the future and going forward.”HeraldScotland:

There is a queue, however, for one of the two places in Celtic’s central defence, The arrival of Kolo Toure and Kristoffer Ajer, and the emergence of prospect Eoghan O’Connell means there is now a bit of a logjam. Efe Ambrose is still there, as are Erik Sviatchenko and Jozo Simunovic – for now, at least. Rodgers is spoilt for choice in that position.

That he only played the first half in Limerick suggests Boyata will not be rushed back into regular first-team contention. He he has spoken to the manager, however, and believes there will be a path for him when he is ready.

“This is a new season, a new time for me with a new manager,” he added. “It is always a concern when you are out when a new manager comes into the club and the biggest thing for me was to get fit. But I spoke to the manager when I was doing my rehabilitation and we had a long chat. He told me what he was thinking about me and it was a big boost.

“As a player, you always want to know what a manager thinks of you and the things he told me could only help me to get back quickly. I can only say that I am really happy to have a manager like Brendan Rodgers with his experience. Hopefully, he can make the team better.”

Being out for so long has not diminished Boyata’s confidence that, when fully fit, he can make a sizeable contribution to the team.

“I believe I can do well for the new manager. I don’t doubt my qualities. It is true the Scottish league is a difficult one to get used to, but I still feel as though I did alright last season. But you can only think about making yourself better. That is my goal. We want to win the league again, we want to win every cup and qualify for the group stages of the Champions League. Of course that is not going to easy, but we are going to try.”