Former Scotland international Alan Hutton believes that Celtic defensive midfielder Nir Bitton could leave the club at the end of this season after his current contract ends.
The ex-Tottenham defender feels that the versatile Israeli would have been offered a new deal by now if he was part of the Hoops’ plans going forward, and he reckons that the 28-year-old could benefit from a change of scenery, having been at Parkhead since 2013.
Speaking about Bitton to Football Insider, Hutton said: “He’s a very good player, sometimes you could say maybe underused, his contract’s running down.
“He’s one that I probably think would let it run down and get the move down south, that seems the way he’s going to go with it. It happens at all the clubs, you’re not playing as much as you like, you need a fresh challenge, go somewhere different.
“I think if he was an integral part of the plans going forward, the contract wouldn’t have run down this much. Maybe that’s a way they’re looking at it at the moment.”
On the face of it, starting just 10 of Celtic’s 28 games so far this season would back up Hutton’s claims that Bitton is ‘underused’, but there are other factors which the ex-Scotland defender doesn’t seem to have taken into account.
For one, the Israeli utility man (he has played as a centre-back, defensive midfielder and central midfielder this season) had been sidelined by a knee injury for almost a whole year, as per The Scottish Sun, so Celtic boss Neil Lennon may be trying to manage Bitton’s game-time carefully given how long he was out of action.
Also, his absences from the squad this season haven’t been through choice – a thigh injury sustained in the derby win over Rangers ruled him out for the rest of September. Either side of that, he has at least been in the matchday squad for every game, so it’s not as if he has been frozen out by Lennon.
Hutton also seems to have forgotten, or be unaware of, Bitton’s wishes to remain at Celtic beyond the expiry of his current contract, having last month told Celtic View (Volume 55, Issue 16, Page 13) [via HITC]: “Every season is important for a football player but, for me, this season is important because I finish my contract at the end of it. I obviously want to stay at Celtic for as long as I can.”
That does not sound like a player who would be content to just let his contract run down, as Hutton has suggested.
Furthermore, Celtic have recently tied down James Forrest, Scott Bain and Callum McGregor to new contracts, so they are making attempts to keep players at the club, and perhaps Bitton is next in line to be offered a new deal.
Taking all of that into account, Hutton’s comments about Bitton’s future don’t seem entirely accurate.
Will Nir Bitton leave Celtic in January?
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