When will Boyd play for NZ?
Tyler Boyd is a trailblazer on two fronts.
The 23-year-old from Tauranga became the first Kiwi footballer to both play and score in Portugal’s top division in a breakout 2017-18 season.
On loan at Tondela from Vitoria Guimaraes, he played 27 games, scoring five goals as his side – a relative minnow of Portuguese football – recorded their best ever Primeira Liga finish of 11th.
But that sort of form, in Europe’s seventh best league according to Uefa, won’t translate to his name being listed in an All Whites squad anytime soon.
That’s because there is another other area where he’s charting his own path, forgoing national team duty to focus on progressing his club career. Some other players have done that, notably on-again off-again All White Tommy Smith, but few with the consistency of Boyd, who hasn’t been on national team duty since his last callup in March 2015.
It was a topic Boyd did not want to discuss when doing a series of interviews at Ole Foot- ball Academy in Porirua on Wednesday – a spiritual home, of sorts, for his football career given his mentor, Declan Edge, is in charge there.
The avoidance of the topic was both frustrating and understandable.
Frustrating in that the narrative around his All Whites absence has been controlled by former All Whites coach Anthony Hudson. Understandable in that he stands to gain little from speaking publicly about it - people will label him as selfish no matter what he says.
So the conjecture around his motives for not playing for New Zealand will continue, but what isn’t in dispute is his ability.
In terms of current All Whites, only Premier League players Chris Wood and Winston Reid play in tougher leagues, according to those Uefa rankings.
But it hasn’t been an easy run, stuck playing in the second division for the Vitoria reserve team for his first two seasons.
‘‘That was a blessing as I got to play straight away in the second division, which is a really competitive league with teams fighting for promotion,’’ he said.
‘‘We played 35 games, I did that for two seasons and racked up the minutes and I started learning so much and adapting to their style of football.
‘‘The third year [with Tondela] I thought I was ready and I think I proved that I was ready and have the quality to play for the first team in the first division.’’
He picked out beating Benfica 3-2 in front of 50,000 people at Estadio da Luz in Lisbon as a season highlight, while he punctuated his personal highlight reel with a stunning leftfooted goal in a 3-0 win over Desportivo Aves on April 22.
He now returns to Vitoria to start pre-season with his parent club, with two years still to run on his contract.
The aim is to crack their first team, which he said would be as much of a mental battle as physical - a side of his game he has been working on a lot.
‘‘Learning how to deal with adversity and turn a negative into a positive, learning how to always be happy no matter what is going on, if you’re happy you’re going to play well.
‘‘If you’re too serious, too hard on yourself, too negative, you’re going to see everything negative and it’s going to show in your play. Little things like that really helped me.’’
He sees his immediate future in Portugal and has become fluent in Portuguese, with the ultimate goal to play in the Uefa Champions League and sign for a top club in Europe.
But even then, he did admit to missing his home country.
‘‘New Zealand is so beautiful, I miss that beauty, but I miss the people more.
‘‘I miss my family and the beautiful people of New Zealand.’’
Kiwi footballer Tyler Boyd visits the Ole Football Academy in Porirua on Wednesday.