Nantes forward Emiliano Sala’s plane never made it to England after the Premier League’s Cardiff City purchased him for £15 million.
It was a dream signing for the recently promoted Cardiff City squad when they agreed to terms with FC Nantes, a French League 1 side, for their striker Emiliano Sala. Sala had scored 12 goals, almost as many as the Cardiff’s 19 as a team. However, things took a dark turn when the plane carrying Sala to join the squad in Cardiff disappeared over the English Channel, leaving Cardiff and its fans to question how this will affect the future of the squad.
Emiliano Sala was born in the town of Cululú in the northern part of Argentina and showed promise from an early age. By the age of 15, he joined a football school in San Francisco, Argentina, where he continued to hone his skills. At 20, he moved to France to play for Girondins de Bordeaux, a Ligue 1 squad. Sala spent time on loan at Orléans, Niort and Caen before finally being signed by Nantes in 2015. Since signing with Nantes, he has appeared in 120 matches and scored 42 goals.
Sala had been off to a great start in the 2018–2019 season for Nantes. He was voted the Ligue 1 Player of the Month in October after scoring 4 goals in 3 matches. He also entered December tied for the league lead in goals, 12, with PSG’s young superstar Kylian Mbappé. In fact, despite not appearing in a match in over two weeks, Sala is tied for fifth for goals scored in Ligue 1.
Cardiff purchased Sala on Jan. 19 after coming to terms with both Nantes and Sala. Sala boarded a single engine Piper Malibu on Jan. 21 with Cardiff hoping his talent would improve the struggling squad. The next day, it was confirmed that Sala was on board a missing flight near Alderney.
On Jan. 24, officials with the Guernsey Police announced they had called off the search for the plane after three days. Planes, helicopters and lifeboats spent 80 hours trying to locate any wreckage of the plan. A GoFundMe raised enough money for a private investigation led by David Mearns. Finally, on Jan. 30, an announcement was made by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch acknowledging that two seat cushions were found on a French beach believed to be from the missing plane.
This isn’t the end of the issues for Cardiff City. Cardiff will still likely be on the hook for a significant amount of money for Sala’s transfer despite him never appearing for the club. This includes payments to Nantes for the transfer fee, the agent’s fee from the sale and some amount of money from his salary to his estate. Reports suggest that despite having insurance, there will still be a large amount that Cardiff will have to pay out of pocket for this accident.
Cardiff City is back in the Premier League after spending the three seasons in the second tier of the English football system. This season is only their second season in the top tier of English football since 1962. With the amount of money available in the Premier League, last year, each team received an equal share of approximately £80 million. It is imperative for the club’s financial success to remain in the Premier League.
Currently, Cardiff sits in 18th place and is the last team in line for relegation. They are four points behind Burnley, who is the first team out of the relegation zone. However, Cardiff has a worse goal differential than Burnley, a tie breaker for teams with the same amount of points. This is partly due to the lack of goal scoring from Cardiff. They only have 20 goals on the season, which puts them second to last ahead of Huddersfield Town with 13.
Cardiff significantly lacks an attacking presence up front and that was the gap that Sala was supposed to fill. Forwards Danny Ward, Kenneth Zohore, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and David Junior Hoilett have a combined 48 appearances between them with only four goals. The top three goal scorers for Cardiff this season, Callum Paterson, Victor Camarasa and Josh Murphy only have a combined 10 goals.
Cardiff Chairman Mehmet Dalman confirmed on Jan. 24 that the club offered to arrange travel to Cardiff by a series of train trips but was declined by Sala because he wanted to say farewell to his teammates in Nantes. This opens up the possibility of Cardiff being able to fight a legal battle over the disappearance because they did offer alternative transportation that Sala refused. Whether Cardiff decides to fight this battle and recoup some of its losses still remains to be seen.
After what Cardiff manager Neil Warnock calls the “most difficult week of [his] career,” the team has to move on. This traumatic event does not change the fact they are in the middle of a battle to stay in the Premier League, and they can’t let up at any moment. It remains to be seen whether Cardiff can rally from this horrific accident or if it will doom their chances to remain in the Premier League.