John Hartson can’t help but wonder what he would have been worth in today’s market, but the former Celtic striker begrudges today’s players none of their riches and says beating cancer changed his perception of life.
Hartson made several big-money moves in his career, joining Arsenal for a British record fee for a teenager, breaking West Ham’s transfer record when he moved to Upton Park and then doing the same when he joined Wimbledon in 1999.
However, the £7.5million the Dons splashed out on a 23-year-old Hartson back then wouldn’t get a Premier League club a great deal in today’s market.
“I was transferred for £23million over the course of my career and that was a lot of money at the time,” Hartson says. “I went to Wimbledon in 1999 for £7.5million and in today’s money you would say that was £82million given the current inflation in transfers.
“The way the transfer market has gone in the last few years just amazes me.
“The minute Neymar went to PSG for £200million, it inflated everything. Suddenly a player who was worth £8million four years ago is worth £40million and you wonder whether this can be sustained.
“Imagine what a player like Graeme Souness would be worth today? Or what George Best would be worth if we go back even further? What would I have been worth now?”
Footballers’ earnings have only continued to rocket since Hartson retired in 2008, but he certainly isn’t jealous and is just grateful to have achieved what he did during his career.
“I went to Arsenal and I was the most expensive teenager in British football. I went to Celtic for £6million. I went to West Ham and broke their transfer record,” he says.
“I failed a medical at Spurs ahead of what could have been a £6million move. I failed another medical over a move to Rangers, then another at Charlton.
“If someone told me all this would have happened to me as a young boy growing up in Wales, I would never have believed it.
“Average players are worth a fortune now, but I say good luck to the players who are earning the big money and making the most of it. There is no jealously there on my part at all.
“I’m incredibly proud of what I achieved in my career. I made my parents proud, which is the most important thing you can do in life.
“I played over 50 times for my country in a time when we had Ian Rush, Dean Saunders and Mark Hughes also in the mix for a starting spot.
“That was big competition for me to overcome, but I was named as Welsh Player of the Year three times so I must have done something right.”
Hartson did not always have it easy during his career, often struggling with fitness or injuries, but his biggest challenge undoubtedly came in his post-football career when he successfully fought cancer.
“It changes your perception of everything in life,” the BT Sport pundit says. “You appreciate the simple things in life and I appreciate everything I have around me so much more now.
“I was close to not seeing my kids and my wife again and when that happens to you, your world can never be the same again.
“I don’t worry about what could happen in the future. Of course, the cancer could return, but the wonderful treatment I received has given me a second chance in life and I want to enjoy every minute of my time here now.
“I also want to raise awareness that getting cancer is not the end. You can come thought it if you have a good family behind you, great medical help and maybe a bit of luck.
“My message to any man out there is not to be afraid of going to your doctor if you have a problem and just get it checked. If you have a lump on your testicle, don’t ignore it, go and get yourself checked out.”
By Kevin Palmer