John Hartson’s agent says his client is not guaranteed to leave Celtic this summer despite the striker’s admittance he was “finished” having been told he can speak to other clubs.
Jonathan Barnett and the Bank of Scotland Premier League champions issued a joint statement today after the former Wales international expressed his shock at reports the Hoops had accepted a cut-price offer of £500,000 (€729,000) from West Brom.
Barnett said: “There has been a lot of media coverage and speculation with regards to John’s situation at Celtic but at the moment John is not certain to leave the club.
“I was given permission several months ago by Celtic to speak to other clubs in relation to John.
“This has been done and certain clubs have expressed an interest to Celtic.
“To suggest that Celtic have acted improperly is totally inaccurate.
“I have always had excellent dealings with Celtic and in this case, as always, the club has acted professionally.”
Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell, who also revealed they are speaking to former Manchester United star Quinton Fortune, admitted they have received a “degree of interest” in Hartson.
His agent was given permission to speak to clubs despite having a year left of his contract, but the Hoops are refusing to say any more on the matter at this stage.
Lawwell said: “We can confirm that a number of months ago, for various reasons, Jonathan Barnett was given permission to speak to other football clubs on John’s behalf. This is something which Jonathan did and there has been a degree of interest.
“Over a number of years, John Hartson has been a great servant to Celtic and has made a fantastic contribution to the club.
“The club will not make any further comment at this time but as always, in relation to the movement of any players in or out of the club, as soon as something is definitive, then we will inform our supporters.
“Our supporters can rest assured that we are working hard to strengthen the squad for next season to face the domestic and Champions League challenges which lie ahead.”
But Hartson expressed his dismay at finding out via Teletext that he was no longer wanted by Celtic. He said: “I can’t believe the way I’ve been treated after all I’ve done for the club.
“I feel angry, hurt and betrayed that I had to find out by reading it on Teletext. If they had told me by phone or to my face I was leaving I would have been disappointed but I could have handled it. I would have appreciated the honesty.
“But I only discovered the bid from West Brom had been accepted through Teletext, and I still haven’t had it officially from Celtic.
“I’m deeply disappointed. I know I’m finished with Celtic and I won’t get the chance to say goodbye to the fans.”
Portsmouth and Blackburn could also enter the chase for Hartson, who has scored 110 goals in 201 games for the Hoops.