Nir Bitton deserves a new contract at Celtic after a stellar start to the season
Celtic will be reasonably happy with how things have shaped up for them in the opening rounds of the ongoing campaign and Neil Lennon is likely to be a relieved man heading into the first international break of the season.
Despite their Champions League failure, Celtic should be reasonably happy to compete in the Europa League for yet another season after a victory over Swedish side AIK in the playoffs.
Besides keeping their European adventure alive, Celtic have also made a wonderful start to the season on the domestic front. The undisputed pace-setters in the Scottish Premiership currently boast of a perfect record in the league and a tally of 17 goals in 4 games is an early sign of more fireworks to come from the reigning champions.
To that end, Celtic’s 2-0 victory over arch-rivals Rangers in the first Old Firm Derby on Sunday laid down an early marker and silenced all the title-noise at Ibrox, with goals from Odsonne Edouard and Jonny Hayes capping off a dominant display by the Hoops.
The fans would have anticipated a fierce battle with plenty of new faces in both the teams following an eventful transfer window but the high-octane clash on Sunday proved to be a rather one-sided affair, with Steven Gerrard’s side failing to make any real impact on their home turf.
Celtic’s unsettled combination at the back was one of the key talking points heading into the derby but the Hoops silenced their critics with a wonderful defensive display, completely shutting the doors on their opposition and denying them any real scoring opportunities.
The big-money summer recruit from Toulouse, Christopher Jullien stole much of the limelight but another man who certainly deserves a warm round of applause for his performance at the heart of the defence in the derby game is none other than Nir Bitton.
The 27-year-old was as solid as a rock and stood tall with his towering 6ft 5inch frame to deal with Rangers’ forays into the box, with an excellent challenge on Jermain Defoe being the highlight of his near-perfect defensive display.
Bitton, who moved to Parkhead from Israeli club Ashdod back in the summer of 2013, played as one of the mainstays of Celtic’s first-team in his earlier days at the club but he has found himself in and out of the eleven over the past couple of campaigns.
The writing seemed to be on the wall for Bitton after he made only 10 appearances for Celtic in all competitions last season, his worst tally in any season at Parkhead since his arrival six years ago, and many would have expected him to continue in a bit-part role this term, with the 27-year-old’s current contract set to expire in 2020.
Bitton apparently had other ideas and it has been evident from his regular involvement in the first-team so far this term that he is not at the club just to run down his contract and leave for free next summer.
Lennon has shown a lot of confidence in him during a transitional phase and the Hoops might have struggled to ease their new defensive recruits into the game had it not been for the consistent displays of Bitton at the heart of the defence.
The Israeli has grabbed his opportunity with both hands and it now looks like he could have a long-term future at the club.
Essentially a defensive midfielder by trade, Bitton has once again reminded that his versatility is a key asset to the Hoops and though he might not continue to be one of the first names on Lennon’s teamsheet for the entirety of the campaign, the 27-year-old definitely has a big part to play.
Bitton is one of those players who often goes under the radar but few would argue against the fact that he does the job perfectly more often than not when called upon.
Yes, he has had his fair share of struggles with injuries over the years but the Israeli never looks short of commitment when he is fit and running.
With that in mind, the 27-year-old continues to be a utility squad player at Parkhead and it should be a no-brainer for the Hoops to keep hold of him with a fresh contract before the end of the season.
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A veteran of 192 appearances for Celtic in all competitions till date, it would be a real shame if the champions lose him on a free transfer next summer.