Nir Bitton has expressed his joy at signing a new contract with Celtic just over a year after he feared he would have to retire from football.
The Israeli international, whose existing deal was due to expire at the end of this season, has committed himself to the champions until the summer of 2023.
Bitton was sidelined from February 2018 until January this year with a cruciate knee injury which threatened to end his playing career. But the 28-year-old has since re-emerged as a valuable member of the Celtic squad and put pen to paper on his new contract yesterday afternoon.
“When I look back to 14 months ago I was in a different situation,” reflected Bitton. “It was a dark time and I thought I might need to finish playing football, which was difficult for me. But now I’m playing and winning trophies again and I’m happy.
“Obviously, when you’re injured for a long time then new contracts are the last things you think about. However, when I started playing again and got back to my best, then staying at Celtic was always my target.
“I’m delighted it’s been done. It’s been at the back of my mind for a wee while and it’s never easy to play when there are doubts over what’s going to happen at the end of the season. I’m happy that’s out of the way now and that Celtic have trusted me to keep things going.
“As soon as Celtic said they wanted me to stay, it was a no-brainer for me. I’m playing for an amazing, unbelievable club so when I’m offered the chance to stay here for a while longer then I’m going to take it.
“I’m still a baby – only 28 – and it’s good for me and my family to have that security and for Celtic to show their faith in me. I don’t take anything for granted after what I’ve been through with injuries. That makes it mean even more to me.”
Bitton’s contract was announced after Celtic learned their fate in the draw for the last 32 of the Europa League, where they will face Danish champions FC Copenhagen in February.
“It’s a tough draw and we need to make sure we are ready when it comes around,” said Bitton. “If we are ready, we can get a good result and go through to the last 16.”