There has been one well covered Israeli departure from Celtic Park this window, with homesick right-back Hatem Ebd Alhamed reportedly very close to moving back to his homeland following a turbulent year in Glasgow – and it appears that the other Israeli at the club, Nir Bitton, may be on his way to joining his countryman in a plane back home.
The Israeli playmaker has undoubtedly been a great servant for the club; winning every league title that the SPL has thrown in his path, alongside being an ever present in the quadruple treble in arguably the most successful clubs’ history, and producing a vast amount of reliable performances in his tenure. However, Bitton, who like many of his team mates hasn’t covered himself in glory this year – namely the derby against them down the road – has found appearances hard to come by in the last few seasons, notching up just 36 from a possible 106 league appearances from August 2017 to the summer of 2020.
And, given the continuity of Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie and Tom Rogic, alongside the rises of Ismaila Soro and David Turnbull, Bitton is even harder pressed for game time than ever, and so it is no surprise to see the man signed from SC Ashdod eight years ago linked with a move back home.
According to the Scottish Sun’s David Friel, Bitton is a summer target for his homeland team Maccabi Tel Aviv, as part of a huge Parkhead overhaul at the end of the season.
Nir is a player who would likely be severely missed even in the current situation; with Scott Brown aging, he would be a particularly useful squad player upon the realisation that Brown will likely drop off his current standards next season if he hasn’t already. And, given a new manager is likely to come in, his ability to retain the ball is one of the best in the squad which may suit a certain style of play.
Bitton won’t come on the cheap, however. He is still tied up to a contract in Glasgow for another two years, and despite his bit-part role in the centre of Neil Lennon’s midfield at the moment, the Hoops’ will not let him go for a cut-price fee. Friel suggests that he is settled in Glasgow having been there for seven years, and isn’t in a rush to leave – however a move back to Israel as he enters his thirties would be an attractive option in terms of starting to settle down for his retirement.