NIR Biton believes there are no limits to what he can achieve as a Celtic player but has urged the club’s supporters not to view him as a direct replacement for Victor Wanyama.
Israeli international midfielder Biton completed his £700,000 move from FC Ashdod to the Scottish champions yesterday, signing a four-year contract.
The highly-rated 21-year-old, who had trial spells with Manchester City earlier this year and also attracted
interest from Tottenham, has been likened in playing style to Wanyama who was sold by Celtic to Southampton for £12.5million last month. “I don’t want to compare myself to other players,” said Biton. “Victor is a very good player. I saw him last year on the TV but I have my style and my football and I don’t want to compare myself to anyone.
“I can play as a defensive midfielder or in central midfield. I can go box to box. Whatever the coach asks of me, I will play. If someone wants to play football at the highest level, they have to play every style. I think Scottish football is tough and strong but I don’t have a problem with that. I will play wherever the coach wants and I played against England in the European Under-21 Championships this summer, so I know what to expect. It won’t be a problem.
“It is a big honour for me to be part of the Celtic family. I have waited a long time for this and I expect to be a success for this club. The sky is the limit.”
Biton’s arrival reinforces Celtic manager Neil Lennon’s squad for their forthcoming Champions League group stage campaign against Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax. Finnish international striker Teemu Pukki underwent a medical yesterday ahead of his move to Parkhead from Schalke 04, while Lennon is also hoping to add at least one further recruit before the transfer window closes in Scotland tonight.
Although Biton had already agreed terms on his move before Celtic clinched their Champions League place, his enthusiasm for his new workplace was intensified when he watched Wednesday night’s dramatic play-off round win over Shakhter Karagandy. “When I was in Israel I expected Celtic to be a big club but being at the game on Wednesday was like something I would never have imagined,” added Biton. “It is impossible to describe the incredible atmosphere. It was something I’ve never known in my life. I don’t expect it to be like that every weekend, but in the Champions League it will be like that. I’m sure if we are playing well as a team, this is what it will be like.
“We will play against big names in the group but Celtic are also a big club. I know the fans are crazy and they pushed the team to the win. I hope it will be like this in the other Champions League games.
“I sat with some friends in my home and watched the game against Barcelona at Celtic Park last season. We said before the game that Celtic didn’t have a chance and that Barca with Messi, Xavi and Iniesta would be too good. But, of course, it was very different. My agent was in the stand texting me that night. On Wednesday when I saw the atmosphere in the stands, I thought Celtic would win for sure.”
Biton will come up against Mario Balotelli in Group H, the Italian star now playing for AC Milan. He played alongside the controversial striker during one of his trial spells at Manchester City before the big-spending English club pulled out of a move for him.
“I don’t know what happened there,” added Biton. “I played with them in pre-season but I didn’t get a work permit. I was in the Israeli Army as well, so this made it more difficult. I scored two goals for them in a trial game but nothing happened.
“The most important thing is that now I am playing for Celtic. This is all of my dreams – to play for a huge club like Celtic. I expect to be at my best and to prove to all of the fans and the people from Celtic that I am a good player and I expect to do well.
“Celtic are a big name in Israel and are live on TV every week. I know Eyal Berkovic was one of Celtic’s best players when he came to the club from Israel and I expect for myself to be one of the best players at Celtic. In Israel I played for a mid-table club and I have come to Celtic with big expectations. It’s best for me to be part of the Celtic family and to win titles with this club. Maybe it will be the first time in my career that I’ll win a championship.
“I played with Efe Ambrose in Israel and he is very happy that I have come to play in the same team as him again at Celtic. We were very good friends when we played for Ashdod. He came to my house every day.
“I am here with Beram Kayal and Efe and they will help me to be better. It is a good thing to have friends in new places but if you are a professional player you need success everywhere in the world, whether you have friends there or not. You just have to be your best.”
Biton is still awaiting international clearance, so cannot make his Celtic debut against Dundee United today. He will be in the squad for the first time against Hearts at Tynecastle on 14 September, after World Cup qualifying duty for Israel against Azerbaijan and Russia over the next fortnight.
Lennon is thrilled by his latest
acquisition and has no doubts he will enhance Celtic. “Nir is a class player,” said Lennon. “He’s tall, has a good
engine and a good range of passing. He’s powerful when he gets going.”