Celtic's signing of Nir Biton has sparked even more Israeli media interest in the bhoys. As a Celtic fan, temporarily residing in Jerusalem, this has been most welcome development, primarily due to the increasing number of games shown on Israeli television channel Sport Chamesh.
But away from selfish indulgences, what will he bring to the Celtic team? Tall, with a good touch and an eye for goal, he appears to be a shrewd signing. Speaking to locals, a few points stand out. Firstly, many rate him more highly than Kayal. This in itself bodes well. Despite Kayal's inability to replicate his first season performances, he has been a valued member of the Celtic squad. Whether Biton is a better player is harder to judge. Israelis tend to assess a player based on their performances at international level. Kayal has never really translated his best form into the national side, and consequentially, many Israelis have questioned his ability.
Secondly, Biton is not a replacement for Wanyama, a fact the player himself admitted. Instead, he is more of an attacking midfielder. Israelis are keen to praise these attacking instincts. His goalscoring record is not akin to someone like Commons, but the goals he does score seem to be of real quality. He is dangerous from set pieces although his real strength are his long shots. With Hooper having left, there is a huge onus is on the midfielders, as well as Stokes and Pukki, to provide goals.
Thirdly, Israelis note Biton's height. Ledley and Brown might be initially difficult to dislodge, yet at 6 ft 5 in, he provides a useful option in European games. Celtic's success last season was built on goals from set pieces and crosses. Four of our nine goals in the group stages came from such situations. Biton may come into the manager's thinking for these games.
Biton has attracted a lot of praise in Israel and the hype was at its peak when he had a trial at Manchester City. He played well but not well enough for a contract. (On a side-note for Scottish commentators, please do not refer to him as Near Brighton, as was done in the commentary of his trial match). There are some doubters here though. One person I spoke to questioned both of the players and wondered why Celtic did not go for a player they were previously linked for, Maor Melikson. Ultimately though, Melikson is relatively similar to Rogic and would not provide a different option for Lennon.
Biton's primary asset may have been his price. With the player in the final year of his contract, he only cost £700,000. Recent years have seen Celtic be incredibly successful with such signings. The fans have grown accustomed to this approach and have long praised the work of John Park. By offering a different option to the midfield and with glimpses of genuine quality, our newest signing has a real chance of being another success of this policy.