NIR Bitton is an enigma to most Celtic supporters. To the manager, however, he is an essential.

It’s been a few years since the midfielder could call himself a regular starter – two seasons and a bit if truth be told – which was down to form, how those in front of him were playing and, of course, for a year a knee injury which left the Israeli in tears when at a Harley Street doctor because he feared his career was over.

And even when Bitton played all the time, under Lennon, Ronnie Deila and Rodgers for a time, not everyone understood what this languid footballer gave to the team.

Depending on whether you were a fan or not, Bitton either kept possession and rotated play or he slowed down the game. He took his time and never rushed, or he took too many touches. He was never one for diving into tackles but, come on, this is Scotland and a certain toughness is demanded from those in the middle of the action.

The truth is, Bitton is a wonderful footballer. On his day. His first touch is there for all to see, he rarely gives away possession, has a shot on him and more than a bit of dig. Now 27 years old and free from injury, and desperate to make up for lost time, this Israeli international will play a big part in Lennon’s Celtic.

He’s not a natural centre-half but was one of Celtic’s best players in Sarajevo on Tuesday night when he filled in there, and not for the first time at the club.

Brendan Rodgers didn’t quite know what to make of Bitton but Lennon does, and the man himself believes that this is going to be a huge season for him at Celtic.

Bitton admits: “I really appreciate that the gaffer really rates me. He was the one who brought me into Celtic and he believed in me when he did that.

“He gave me the confidence to play in the first place and, for as long as he gives me chances in the future, I’ll always try to do my best for him, for the fans and for the club because of all of the faith they have shown in me. I’m just happy to be part of this club and we’ll see in the future.

“I always feel that I can do a job for Celtic. I’ve said it before that when you play for a club which is the size of this, you always have competition and you always expect to have competition for places and have to earn the chances to play.

“You always have other players who will push you to the edge of to the limit, new players coming to the club, players showing good form and that is the best thing about playing here.

“You know that if you take your foot off the gas for just one short time, you can lose your space in the team and when you get the opportunities to play, you must take them and perform.

“I will always try to compete within that and do my best for every single minute that I am given on the pitch. Hopefully, I will get a chance to play more this season.”

Bitton’s position is deep-lying central midfielder. There he can dictate play, spray passes, win back possession and allow those in front of him to do what they do.

But he’s had to step back in Europe more than once and two years ago, while coming in for criticism, Rodgers made the point that had it not been for Bitton’s adaptability then Celtic, who were short of defenders, would not have made the Champions League group stage.

Bitton admitted: “Maybe I need to play centre-back more often, and we could go to Champions League every year! Seriously, as long as I play, I try to do my best.

“I played at centre-back for my national team against Poland and I felt good. It’s all about how you prepare yourself and how you grow into the games. It’s good to be back and it’s good to be on the pitch.

“I’ve said it before that it doesn’t matter to me which position that I play, so long as I can play, especially in these type of European games as they are so good to be part of. I just hope that it is going to continue and I will always try to do my best.”

Celtic have made a good start to Europe, they played well the other night but Bitton knows it was just a start to what could be an epic season.

The Israeli said: “I think every season that I have been at Celtic has been very challenging for us. It’s such a big club to play for and that means there is always pressure and expectations placed onto you at all times.

“The Champions League is a big target for us this season. If we can get that, it will be a big boost for all of us. We just need to make sure we go to the games all the way through the qualifiers and we concentrate.

"We conceded a goal against Sarajevo and it was a little bit sloppy. We need to cut that out if we want to play in the group stages of the Champions League. But, as I said, it is a big target for us. We want it this season, so we know what needs to be done.”

“Obviously, it was good to win. None of those games are easy and usually it’s difficult to play them. You go to a stadium with 25,000 people in there, the pitch is not the best, it’s early in the season and the only thing matters is the result. With this to consider, we are happy.”