IT wasn’t so very long ago that Celtic’s Nir Bitton was contemplating a life of picking up hires instead of picking up runs from the likes of Nicklas Bendtner, but with a new contract from Celtic in his possession, he has licence to contemplate a future in football once again.

Bitton, who spent the best part of a year on the sidelines with a horror knee injury before eventually returning to the Celtic first-team fold at the tail-end of last season, admits there were times when he wondered if he would ever kick a ball again during the darkest moments of that lay-off.

Now fully fit and showing his worth to the Celtic squad once more, Bitton is looking forward to helping his team gun for yet another domestic treble and a place in the last 16 of the Europa League by overcoming Danish side FC Copenhagen in February.

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Now, he knows exactly where he is going. But when asked what he might have been doing had things worked out differently, Bitton said: “F*** knows! I don’t know – I could be a taxi driver maybe.

“I’d find something but it’s always difficult if you ask any athlete what they would do if their career was over in their 20s. It will be difficult for me when I am 35 never mind at 28.

“I’m still a baby, 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.

“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.

“When I look back to 14 months ago, I was in a different situation; 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.

“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 so I’m happy that 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.”

The big question around Bitton now is where exactly are his talents best utilised, at centre-back or in central midfield? The player himself would argue he is more naturally inclined to the middle of the park, but he isn’t about to throw any tantrums about being played out of his favoured position.

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Particularly as his versatility not only doubles his chances of forcing his way into Neil Lennon’s starting line-up, but because he has proven to his doubters that he can more than hold his own in either position.

“If Celtic want to qualify for the Champions League I need to play centre back,” he joked.

“When I started playing at centre back it was not my ideal position, but I tried to do my best. We qualified for the Champions League one year and that was a big achievement for me because a lot of people doubted me. They were saying Celtic have no chance of qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League with Nir Bitton in defence. That’s something that gave me extra drive and motivation to show to people that I can do it.

“Some people around the club [doubted me], some journalists, some people on TV. We are all human. We all have ears - and I have big ears.

“It’s not something I take personally but as an athlete and a professional footballer it’s something that gives me extra drive and motivation. If someone doubts me, I will show them that I can do it.

“Seriously, it’s about Celtic and the team, I’m happy to do any job. You don’t choose where to play at a club like this.

“If the manager wants you to play centre mid, you do so. If he wants you at the back, you play at the back.”

With another eye on the future, Bitton is already looking forward to locking horns with some of his Celtic teammates when Israel come to Hampden in March for the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final, and he is already feeling quietly confident of shackling the man who may be trusted to lead the attack upon his return to full fitness.

“I play centre-half for Israel,” he said. “I will face Leigh Griffiths? I will take that!”

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Joking aside though, he knows that it will be a closely-fought encounter between his country and his adopted homeland.

“I’m always happy and proud to represent my country,” he said.

“We have a big game in March against Scotland and it’s going to be tough. There was a bit of talk after the draw was made but it’s gone quiet. I think we will talk about it again nearer the game.

“It’s a 50-50 game. We showed in the past we can win but they’ve beaten us too. It’s a one-off game and we will do our best to try and win the game and reach the final.”