Celtic utility man Nir Bitton has hit back at previous media criticism over his ability.

In recent years, Bitton has had to fill in at centre-back at the start of European and domestic campaigns. That’s meant that he’s played a key role in our Champions League qualification matches in recent years. Back at the beginning of this season, Bitton played in four of our five Champions League qualifying games.

He’s had to listen to real doubts over his ability from the likes of Chris Sutton over the years too (BT Sport). Not being a natural centre-back led to some early questions about how he could adapt.

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Celtic star Nir Bitton

Nir Bitton can now be considered a centre-back (Silvia Lore/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

However, Bitton has managed to prove the doubters wrong. And speaking in the Scottish Sun after signing a new contract, the Israeli had a little pop back at those who criticised him.

“When I started at centre-half it wasn’t my best position, but I tried to do my best and we qualified for the Champions League. It was a big achievement for me because a lot of people doubted me.

“They were saying, ‘Celtic have no chance of qualifying with Bitton at centre-back’. That’s something that gave me extra drive and motivation to do it.

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“It was said by some people around the club, some journalists, some people on TV. We are all human. We all have ears — and I have big ears!”

Bitton’s role at Celtic is clear, and it’s invaluable

Bitton is perhaps one of the most effective squad players we currently have at Parkhead. Twice he’s now had to step in at centre-back against Rangers this season and twice he’s absolutely bossed it for example.

It’s been a long time since Bitton’s last poor performance (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

It’s no wonder that, when Lenny wants to see a game through, Bitton is one of the first substitutes that comes to mind. No longer is he a worst-case scenario. He’s become a reliable, solid centre-back who’s dominant in the air.

His new contract yesterday made total sense for the club. We would do extremely well to go out and bring in a player with both the quality and versatility that Nir carries. This could be one of the most important new contracts we manage to get signed between now and the end of the season.

With Jozo Simunovic sidelined, Bitton is the only natural alternative we have at centre-back. With Jack Hendry also just not cutting it, you can see why Nir is such a favourite of Lennon’s.

Celtic midfielder Nir Bitton

Bitton has been utilised 21 times this season (Paul Ursachi/MB Media/Getty Images)

Yet, that of course doesn’t mean that Nir will ever be first-choice. Ideally, we still have two natural centre-backs ahead of him in the pecking order at all times. But just having him around as cover has been invaluable to keeping our nine-in-a-row bid on track.

It’s great to hear him have a pop at those who doubted him. He certainly took some unfair flack despite the fact he had to get used to a position he had never played in before. Bitton’s adaptability, however, has ensured that he gets the last laugh.

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