Israel manager Willlibald Ruttensteiner has appeared to disrespect Celtic boss Neil Lennon in his pre-match press conference ahead of their crunch clash with Scotland.
Lennon seemed bemused when his injured defender Nir Bitton was called up to the Israeli squad for their upcoming triple-header. The Celtic manager said that it would be “impossible” for him to feature for his country due to an ankle knock picked up in Sarajevo (Daily Record).
The Celtic manager then reiterated his stance yesterday when he was quoted in the Daily Record as saying: “I don’t think he’ll be fit to play for them. I reckon he won’t be ready for that until the first game after the break.”
However, Ruttensteiner has totally ignored the Celtic boss’ verdict on Bitton. Instead, he says that the Hoops centre-back will be fit to feature for his country as he failed to rule him out.
As quoted by the Scottish Sun, Ruttensteiner said: “Let me say that I will confirm no player to you. That would not be clever from my side. We have 23 players here – one player has Corona and is isolated – and every one of them can be in the first XI. So that is my statement.
“I do not know him (Neil Lennon). But if you ask me if my 23 players are able to play I will say yes.”
Incredible arrogance from Ruttensteiner here
It’s clear the Israel boss feels under immense pressure to get the job done in the Euro 2020 playoff clash at Hampden. A failure to win there in the Nations League last month as well as another draw at home to Slovakia wasn’t the start to the Nations League he was after.
A defeat to Scotland and Ruttensteiner will likely be under severe pressure given how big an opportunity this is for both national sides.
But even so, you can’t go risking long-term injuries just for the national team’s gain. Remember, it’s not the international FA’s that play the player’s wages. Celtic are the ones who line Bitton’s pockets, and that must be remembered by both Ruttensteiner and the player.
This is a manager who gives off the impression that he would happily risk another Bitton injury so long as his players get the job done. There are absolutely no precautions being taken here if he decides to play him.
Remember, this isn’t a friendly he would be going into either. It’ll be a high-stakes, all-or-nothing clash to see who progresses into a playoff final against either Serbia or Norway. Ruttensteiner is showing an incredible lack of common sense regarding Bitton’s situation.
Also, if the player wants to stay in Neil Lennon’s good books, he should demand that he doesn’t play. There’s nothing wrong with travelling to the camp and trying to get fit, but the Celtic boss clearly doesn’t think he should be playing. He risks Lennon’s wrath if he decides to step onto the Hampden turf this evening.
There has to be an understanding from Bitton that by playing in this game he could cost his club dearly by missing matches against Rangers and AC Milan after we return from the international break. It’s time for him to make the right decision as his manager evidently isn’t going to.