Celtic have four central defenders in the first team squad, although Jozo Simunovic’s injury record and Jack Hendry’s complete absence from match day squads effectively reduces that figure to two. When required, Neil Lennon has used Nir Bitton as his third central defensive option.
This has worked well for player and club, but Nir was out of contract in the summer, so there is a risk for the Champions League qualifiers. We need four options in central defence in July and August, two to play and two to cover injuries (on top of Jozo’s perennial state), suspensions and the possibility that we have another central defender pull a Dedryck Boyata/Kelvin Wilson move.
I expect we will still try to add two central defenders to the first team squad between now and then, but the consequences of not getting the player you want, or that player turning in training performances like Marvin Compper, are great.
2020 could be a breakthrough year for 19-year-old Lee O’Connor, but the prospect of a Champions League playoff game is a lot to burden a player who has yet to make a senior debut at club level (he represented Ireland against New Zealand last month).
This is the primary motivation to award Nir a new contract. He is a player the manager knows and trusts to do a job when required.