In an ideal world, Celtic would be able to shift on Nir Bitton this summer with no real issue.
Let’s face it – the Israeli’s time at Celtic is up. He’s past his best years for the football club and his naivety at Ibrox in January cost us dearly in the title-race. Not to mention the fact he’s struggling to get a game ahead of Kris Ajer and Stephen Welsh at the moment.
Even with Shane Duffy nowhere near it and Chris Jullien out for the long-term, Bitton still can’t get game-time. He’s only made 21 appearances for the Bhoys this season, and has struggled to make an impression when he has featured.
He’s effectively fourth-choice as things stand ahead of a major summer rebuild. With Maccabi Tel-Aviv reportedly interested in a summer move [Scottish Sun], it would normally look set up for Bitton to leave.
But when you look at what our centre-back options will be in the summer, we may have to hang fire on an immdiate Parkhead exit for Nir.
Celtic’s Nir Bitton remains a squad player; Hoops could still use a few of them
The fact is that this summer’s rebuild will leave us with a major centre-back shortage. If Bitton goes, he’ll join Duffy and most likely Kris Ajer. Jullien, meanwhile, won’t be fit until the start of the season. What that means is that we’ll have no senior centre-backs available. The only option would be Stephen Welsh with no partner beside him.
Therefore, it would perhaps be wise to keep Bitton, even if his time here should be up. At the very least, keeping him for six-month bedding in period would look like the soundest strategy.
Not for Nir’s sake of course, for whatever new signings the manager brings. If Bitton goes, you could argue as many as four centre-back signings would be necessary. Stephen Welsh clearly still has a bit to go before he can compete in Champions League qualifiers. Going into them with Bitton as first-choice wouldn’t be ideal either, but he has experience of these rounds and has previous in helping us through them.
Therefore, having him around just incase of any injuries or worrying starts from some of the new signings may be wise. It would be the right thing to do to protect our Champions League/European interests next season.
That gives us time to get our new signings in the door and provide them with time to settle in for six months or so. Then, Celtic could cash in on Bitton before his contract enters its final year. That in turn gives us the chance to maximise his value and rake in some further funds.
But for now? It may be wise just to hang onto him over the next eight months.