Romanov wanted to sell Hartley to Celtic for £7m

Ranting Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov last night claimed he sold Paul Hartley on the cheap to Celtic – because the player begged him to join the Hoops.

The controversial Lithuanian, who has put a £50million price tag on Hearts as he bids to sell the club, spoke out in his latest blast at Scottish football.

Romanov claims he wanted £7m for the former Scotland midfielder in January 2007 because there was no better player in Britain at the time. But he accepted £1.1m to allow Hartley his dream move.

Speaking from Lithuania, Romanov said: “Paul Hartley scored 16 goals from midfield in half a season – there wasn’t even a player as good as that in England at the time.

“And he came to me on the last day of the transfer window at 5pm and begged to sign for Celtic.

“So I said okay you can go if they give us £7m. But they offered £1.1m and I accepted it just for him.

“Two years later he returns and asks to come back because they haven’t played him!

“I came to Scotland with the best of intentions – I’d had enough of the criminals in football in Russia.

“Then suddenly I came across a young player, who wouldn’t renew his contract, then another and another.

“Five players at Hearts then all changed agents and announced they wanted to sign for Rangers.

“It was because we wanted to break up the Old Firm – we were beating them.”