MARIAN Kello has confirmed that he will not talk to Hearts about a new contract when his current deal expires in the summer, and hinted that he would welcome renewed interest from Celtic.
The 29-year-old goalkeeper was excluded from the Hearts squad against St Johnstone on Sunday as a punishment for not agreeing a move to Austria Vienna on transfer deadline day, and would ideally like to join a club in England. But he suggested that if Celtic had come in for him last week he might have made the move from Edinburgh to Glasgow.
“The interest from Celtic was certainly real, but ultimately they did not make a concrete offer,” the Slovakian international said. “So I decided to stay a Hearts player for now.
“But I’m not going to negotiate a new contract – I’m leaving on June 30. So I will wait for offers and I am open to different possibilities. I’ll see how it ultimately develops.”
Paulo Sergio said after Sunday’s 1-1 Scottish Cup draw that, as things stood, Kello would not be available to him for tomorrow’s league match at home to Celtic or subsequent games. The manager added that “a political issue” had been to blame, and yesterday Kello explained the circumstances which had led to his being dropped.
“At the end of the transfer-window period, Austria Vienna showed interest in me. But it ended up not being a successful transfer, because it was a last-minute proposal and I decided not to go for certain reasons. I got into trouble with the club for not completing the transfer.
“My current contract ends in the summer and I will decide what to do then.
“The club is for sale – the owner [Vladimir Romanov] has made that clear. Here you essentially have to look after yourself. The salary gets paid only after a delay. It is a difficult situation.”
That situation has not been made any easier by the way in which the Hearts board acted towards the end of the January transfer window. With days to go before it closed, they increased their efforts to offload several players.
They had sold Eggert Jonsson at the start of the month and were on the verge of agreeing Ryan Stevenson’s transfer to Ipswich but, with Romanov having decreed that the club henceforth had to pay its own way, they needed to raise substantially more revenue.
They wanted to sell Kello, David Templeton and Marius Zaliukas, or at least two of the three, and they wanted Suso Santana and David Obua to agree an early end to their contracts. They failed on all counts.
As a result, there is again a serious doubt about Hearts’ ability to pay their players’ salaries on time. The money is due a week on Thursday, but unless Romanov relents and releases some extra funds, it seems certain to be late.
The board could have reacted to their own failure by admitting responsibility and promising to learn from their errors, but instead they scapegoated Kello. In footballing terms it makes no sense for the club to rule its best goalkeeper out of action for the foreseeable future. It only makes any sense if you think like Romanov, and believe that once a threat is made you should carry it out.
Hearts staff put a lot of extra effort into raising the funds for January’s salaries, and hoped that a repeat performance would not be needed this month, so it is understandable that Kello’s refusal to move caused some frustration. But the sale of the goalkeeper would not have been enough: Austria Vienna offered around £100,000 and Hearts need more than double that to pay this month’s salaries.
They could have solved their immediate money worries by selling Templeton to Bristol City, but it is understood they turned down a bid of £400,000 from the English Championship club. There was a sizeable gap between that offer and Hearts’ asking price of around £1million, but more subtle negotiating skills might have succeeded in bridging that gap.
Zaliukas was also overpriced. Romanov apparently believes that the centre-half’s status as captain and one of the club’s top earners makes him worth a seven-figure sum in excess of the amount Hearts would like for Templeton. Other clubs do notshare that belief.
Getting Suso and Obua off the wage bill would have had far less of an impact than those hoped-for sales, but would still have been worthwhile as neither player has figured much in Sergio’s plans. But neither player was offered a good enough deal to make it worth his while taking his chance finding another club, with the result that Hearts are left paying two full wages that they can not afford.