Saturday 20 January 2018

Exit crossed Bitton's mind

Celtic midfielder now happy to have stayed

Nir Bitton
Nir Bitton

Nir Bitton admits he considered the prospect of leaving Celtic last season before a pep talk with boss Ronny Deila.

The Israel midfielder, who joined the Scottish champions from FC Ashdod in August 2013, signed a new five-year contract with the Parkhead club on Monday which ties him to the Hoops until 2020.

However, Bitton was on the periphery of Deila's squad for the first few months of the Norwegian manager's tenure before establishing himself in the side following an injury to Charlie Mulgrew and the 24-year-old has since become a key player for the Ladbrokes Premiership leaders.

Speaking at Celtic's Lennoxtown training complex ahead of the crucial Europa League clash with Molde at Parkhead tomorrow evening, he was asked if there was a time when he thought he might have to leave Celtic.

"I will be honest, yes, because every player wants to play," said Bitton. "It's not because I wanted to leave Celtic. In the beginning I didn't play much, even in the first year with Lenny (Neil Lennon). I came here when I was 21 years old, it was first time away from home and Israeli football and it was a little bit difficult.

"The tempo in Scottish football is much higher than the Israeli league. I knew it before I came here but I didn't realise the difference.

"I had a good conversation with him (Deila) last year. I didn't realise why I wasn't playing and when you don't know why you don't play, you cannot change the thing you need to improve.

"After the conversation with the gaffer I tried to change, tried to show him that I deserved to play and I got my chance. Sometimes in your career you have tough moments.

"But I am happy that I went through it, happy that I stayed here, happy that I signed a new contract and I think I am the happiest man in the UK now."

Deila has been so impressed with Bitton's progression that he recently said that the midfielder reminded him of Barcelona star Sergio Busquets.

"I have a long way to being Sergio Busquets," said Bitton.

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