Celtic’s woes in the Europa League continued last week as they were hammered 4-0 by Bayer Leverkusen on their own turf.
This came after they lost 4-3 to Real Betis in their opening group stage match, with Ange Postecoglou’s side now facing an uphill battle to qualify for the knockout stages.
One player who has struggled in Europe in recent seasons and featured against Leverkusen is defensive midfielder Nir Bitton. In 24 minutes against the Bundesliga side, the 29-year-old lost half of his duels and won possession back once, whilst giving the ball away six times.
The Israel international has been a terrific servant for Celtic over the years. He joined from Ashdod in 2013 and has made 241 appearances for the club in the subsequent eight years, including 153 times in the Scottish Premiership for the Hoops.
A major issue he has had throughout his career in Scotland is his availability. He has been out of action for 12 different reasons since joining Celtic, ranging from the ongoing pandemic to groin injuries and problems with his knee. This has restricted him to less than 20 Premiership appearances in each campaign since the 2016/17 season.
Despite that, his value from August 2018 to January 2019 stood at a respectable £1.80m, according to Transfermarkt. Less than three years later, however, Bitton’s value now stands at £720k and has been steadily declining in the intervening period – dropping four times since January 2019.
This means that his value has plummeted by 60% in under three years, despite being in what should be the prime years of his career as a holding midfielder. It’s hardly a surprise, therefore, that he’s been dubbed a “walking joke” by popular Celtic platform, Bhoys Analytics.
His performances in the Europa League, along with his injuries, may have played a part in his valuation flopping in recent years. He averaged a SofaScore rating of 6.72 across five games in the 2019/20 edition of the competition, making one tackle and interception combined per game.
The following year, he averaged a score of 6.63 in three appearances as the overall quality of his displays lowered, despite him averaging 2.7 tackles and interceptions per match. This suggests that he was not performing to a high enough standard in the Europa League, irrespective of any accomplishments domestically, and that could hint at why his price has been falling.
He has struggled on the pitch in Europe and off the pitch in terms of his availability and there are no signs to suggest he is on the way back up. Could it be time for Celtic to part ways with the midfielder?