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Celtic were linked with Dinamo Zagreb defender Filip Benkovic in the summer but the deal did not go through. Now, they are reportedly interested once more and are stepping up their pursuit of Benkovic. The need for a central defender is quite apparent at the club. Nir Bitton’s fairly regular appearances at the heart of the their defence this term has highlighted their shortcomings in that area as Jozo Simunovic and Erik Sviatchenko both continue to battle injuries.
The Israel international has done fairly well in the role, which is quite commendable, and since that is not his natural position, he has also looked vulnerable against some of the better sides. Celtic are currently on a good run of form but they need reinforcements if they are to continue that. Thus, it is no surprise that Rodgers is considering potential options in that area of the pitch, and Benkovic appears to be a primary target for the Scottish Premiership leaders.
Interestingly, Celtic have kept a keen eye on the 20-year-old during the last two transfer windows, but they failed to land him. With the January window coming up though, Brendan Rodgers will be increasingly determined to finally get his man.
As of now, Celtic are fielding a makeshift backline of Bitton and Dedryck Boyata but they cannot continue this way. So while a move for Benkovic seems necessary, there is also the possibility that it might push Bitton further below the pecking order.
A languid and stylish midfielder by trade, Bitton was already struggling for game time since Rodgers clearly does not lack for options in that area. Thus, he was forced to fill in at the back, which he has been doing to the best of his abilities. But, with Celtic aiming to enhance their defensive options with a new signing in January, one does wonder what might potentially happen to Bitton’s chances in that case.
The 25-year-old, who looked set to leave in the summer after falling down the pecking order last season, would have barely played for Celtic in 2017/18 season if he wasn’t needed at the back. In fact, one might even argue that it’s Bitton’s versatility that has saved his Celtic career until now. If Benkovic arrives in January, that could possibly see the end of Bitton’s time at the club.
Nevertheless, it is a move that is extremely necessary for Celtic and one that needs to be done pronto. Upon Benkovic’s potential arrival, it will also be time for Bitton to move on in search of greener pastures.