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Nir Bitton on playing Celtic mentor to ‘little boy’ Liel Abada as he praises compatriot’s impact

IT can be easy to forget, given his impact since arriving at Celtic, that Liel Abada hasn’t long turned 20 years of age.

The Israeli winger has been impressive since being thrown into the Celtic team upon his arrival in Scotland in the summer from Maccabi Petah Tikva, racking up 33 appearances already and chipping in with 10 goals.

His rapid acclimatisation has been helped by having compatriot Nir Bitton on hand for advice, with the 30-year-old midfielder now one of the elder statesmen of the Celtic dressing room.

He knows first-hand how daunting it can be to come into a new country, particularly at such a big club, but by taking Abada under his wing he has ensured that the youngster has been able to hit the ground running.

“He’s a little boy,” Bitton said. “Since he came in I look at him and I see myself when I was in his position and signing for Celtic.

“I just want to make sure he settles in. When life outside is easier it makes the football better.

“I’m there to guide him, give him the advice he needs, and just to make his life easier.

“It’s not easy to come from a different country when you are 20-years-old. You leave your parents, your family and friends. Your language is not the best.

“Some people forget it and think you should be on top of your game every week. But it’s not easy at this age – or at any age – but especially this young, coming from another country, adapting to the weather, the language.

“I’m just trying to be here for him and he’s one of the boys I wanted to win [the League Cup] for.

“I’m just trying to be the best I can. I wanted someone to be there for me so I’ll do whatever I can.”

Bitton is enjoying a renaissance in his own Celtic career under Ange Postecoglou of late, making 24 appearances so far this term and being trusted to captain the side on occasion too when skipper Callum McGregor has missed out through injury or been rested.

Whether in defence or in midfield, he is proving a useful and versatile asset for the Celtic manager when his squad has at times been stretched.

“I’m quite enjoying it at the moment,” he said. “I’ve had my ups and downs in my Celtic career.

“But whenever or wherever I get the shout to play, I’ll do my best for the team, for the manager and the people around the club. I know how much it means to them.

“Sometimes it goes better, sometimes worse, but we always try to do our best to make this club successful.

“I’m just enjoying the moment.”

The League Cup triumph over Hibernian just before Christmas marked the 14th major honour that Bitton has won since arriving at Celtic in 2013, but he certainly isn’t satisfied with that total, as he looks to win more silverware before this season is out.

“Every time we win a trophy it’s a great feeling,” he said.

“It’s always great to achieve something and we are out to build something special here. I’m glad to win the trophy.

“I don’t really think about how many I’ve won. There’s always the desire to win more and more. Every trophy is special.

“We knew before the game this is a new team with a new coach and players and we wanted to win it for them to experience this feeling, to create a winning environment.

“Obviously when I finish my career it’s good to look back with something special. We’ve won a lot in my time here and made some great memories.

“But that’s gone. We knew before the game it was all in the past, people have already forgotten about it.

“We have to create our own history and legacy by winning more trophies.

“We knew winning this would give us a lift and a push before the break. It gives the new boys a sight of what this club is all about.

“Hopefully we can create more memories this season.”

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