Nir Bitton considered Celtic exit before new deal until 2020

By John BarnesBBC Scotland
Celtic midfielder Nir Bitton
Bitton is signed up until 2020 with Celtic

Nir Bitton, who has just signed a new five-year contract with Celtic, admits he thought about leaving the club last season.

The Israel international, 24, revealed pep talks with manager Ronny Deila helped convince him to persevere.

A lack of first-team opportunities last year had left him frustrated, but he is now a regular in Deila's team.

"Sometimes in your career you go through tough moments, but I'm happy that I went through it," said Bitton.

"I'm happy that I stayed, happy I signed a new contract. I'm the happiest man in the UK now."

Bitton started his career with Ashdod in his homeland and joined Celtic in 2013.

But he was in and out of the team and often left on the bench before becoming more established in the starting line-up in the second half of last season.

So far this term, the midfielder has made 20 appearances, scoring four goals.

"The main reason I signed is the club," he said. "When you play in front of 40,000 or 50,000 fans, there is nothing better than that. Sometimes it's better than money."

Celtic's Nir Bitton (right) celebrates scoring against Malmo
Nir Bitton (right) has scored three goals for Celtic in Europe this season

Bitton has become one of the Glasgow club's most consistent performers and puts that down to adjusting to the game in Scotland and taking heed of his manager's advice.

"Like everyone saw, I didn't play much even in the first year with Neil Lennon as manager," he said.

"I moved from Israel and the tempo of the game there is not the same as here. It's totally different.

"I just needed to settle in and understand what the expectation was here and, as soon as I did, I knew I could continue.

"I had a good conversation with the manager last year. Before, I didn't realise why I didn't play and when you don't know you cannot do anything about it.

"After the conversation with the gaffer, I tried to change. I tried to show him that I deserve to play and I got my chance."

Bitton has scored three times in Europe this season and feels Celtic will have to produce a performance similar to the one against Aberdeen at the weekend if they are to beat Molde on Thursday night and keep alive their chances of progressing in the Europa League.

"At the end of the day, it's just a football game," he said. "We just need to do the same things we did the past two years.

"Like every game we play at Celtic Park, we try to go 100% from the beginning, but we need to be careful because they are a very strong counter-attacking team and they hurt us in the last game."

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