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Barcelona star Busquets sets the talent bar for Biton

IT was a compliment which, in retrospect, Nir Biton could have done without.

In August, Efe Ambrose, asked to comment on the qualities of his one-time FC Ashdod team-mate, likened the skill set of Celtic's soon-to-arrive 6ft 5in defensive midfielder to that of Sergio Busquets of Barcelona. Little did either man suspect that in a matter of months a 6-1 defeat at Camp Nou would allow everybody to make precisely that assessment for themselves.

"All I had ever seen of Xavi and Busquets was on TV, and they looked very good," said Biton. "But when you play against them? You understand just how good. It's so hard to play against them when they move like they do, and move the ball so quickly. The speed they play at is different. I just want to be 40% of the player he [Busquets] is."

For the moment, rather than focus on being 40% of anybody, the Israeli has to concentrate on showing Celtic's supporters 100% of what Nir Biton has to offer. If his contributions at Champions League level haven't exactly panned out as planned - he was sent off within 11 minutes of coming on as a substitute against Ajax, then was powerless to prevent the rout in the Camp Nou - he has at least showed increasing signs of acclimatisation to the domestic game in recent 4-1 and 7-0 wins against Ross County and Hearts respectively.

Both the player and his manager are convinced there is more to come from the 22-year-old. "I'm still trying to settle in to Scottish football, it's not what I'm used to," said Biton, "But I believe when I'm 100% mentally, I'll be better. The Champions League is a level up from the Scottish League and playing teams at home isn't ever going to be the same as facing an Ajax or a Barcelona. Do they prepare us for these games? Yes - but we just didn't do what the coach asked to do in this game. We didn't defend well."

Celtic, given their current relationship with continental football, may have been due a defeat like this against Barcelona simply by virtue of the law of averages, but Neil Lennon stood by his criticism of his players last night and insisted that other, more senior, members of his squad were more in the firing line than his Israeli midfielder.

"For Nir in particular, as a young player, sometimes you can come away and learn nothing from a game like that, apart from thinking, 'God, I'm crap, or I'm not good'," Lennon said. "But he will go away, look at what he has to do, and the heights he has to aspire to. It can be a humbling experience for a lot of players, but in his instance he has to take something from it. He did struggle as a lot of them did with the pace and the speed of thought and intelligence of [Barcelona's] play, but a lot of players do that. He is not our main concern from the other night. It was more the senior players really."

While being dismayed at the manner in which the European campaign "fizzled out", only two of the four performances - the 1-0 defeat to Ajax in Amsterdam, and midweek at the Camp Nou - were genuine disappointments in a competition where Celtic are facing a huge financial disparity. "Teams like Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus, Benfica and Napoli have spent vast amounts and it hasn't guaranteed them [a place in the] last 16 either," Lennon said. "The Napolis and Shakhtars have spent £50, 60, 70m. This year we have spent £7m so we are the lightweights of the Champions League."

With the future of Georgios Samaras and Joe Ledley, both with six months of their contracts to run, still "clear as mud", the likes of Teemu Pukki, Amido Balde and Biton will be given further chances to make their contribution. "There is no question we punched well above our weight last year, and as a manager the dream is to build on what you have, but we are in the kind of climate where you can't - you have to sell," Lennon said. "I may never find another Victor Wanyama for £800,000 and sell him for £12m, there is not a conveyor belt. But every now and then we hope to get a player in who will get us a lot of money. We think Biton is a good player who will develop into a resaleable figure."

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