Cardiff To Appeal FIFA Ruling Over Sala’s Transfer Payment

Nantes’ Argentinian Italian forward Emiliano Sala during the French L1 football match between Stade Rennais (Stade Resnais FC) and Nantes (FC Nantes) at The Roazhon Park in Rennes.

 

Cardiff said on Wednesday they would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against FIFA’s decision to make them pay Nantes the first instalment of the transfer fee for Emiliano Sala.

The world governing body this week ordered Cardiff to pay French club Nantes an initial six million euros ($6.5 million) in their dispute over the payment of the transfer fee for Sala, who died in a plane crash.

“There remains clear evidence that the transfer agreement was never completed in accordance with multiple contractual requirements which were requested by Nantes, thereby rendering it null and void,” Cardiff said in a statement.

“We shall be appealing to CAS in order to seek a decision which considers all of the relevant contractual information and provides clarity on the full legal situation between our two clubs.”

AFP

Liverpool Beat Cardiff To Mount Pressure On City

Liverpool’s English midfielder James Milner (R) celebrates scoring their second goal from the penalty spot with Liverpool’s English midfielder Jordan Henderson (L) during the English Premier League football match between between Cardiff City and Liverpool at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, south Wales on April 21, 2019. GEOFF CADDICK / AFP

 

Liverpool continue to put the pressure on Manchester City as a hard-fought 2-0 win at relegation threatened Cardiff moved them back top of the Premier League on Sunday.

Georginio Wijnaldum’s opener just before the hour and James Milner’s penalty secured a ninth consecutive win in all competitions for Jurgen Klopp’s side and moved them two points ahead of City, who have a game in hand, at the top of the table.

City travel to Manchester United on Wednesday in what appears the toughest hurdle left for the English champions to clear and deny Liverpool a first Premier League title in 29 years.

The Reds remain poised to pounce if Pep Guardiola’s side fail to pick up maximum points in their remaining four games.

READ ALSO: Reus Inspires Dortmund’s Win Over Freiburg Despite Injury

While Liverpool were cruising into a second successive Champions League semi-final in midweek, Cardiff gave their chances of survival a huge boost with a 2-0 win at Brighton to close within three points of safety.

If Neil Warnock’s men are to defy the odds to stay up, it is upcoming games against already relegated Fulham and Crystal Palace they will need to win, but they did not make life easy for Liverpool.

The visitors should have taken the lead midway through the first-half when their front three clicked together for the first time when Mohamed Salah fed Sadio Mane and the Senegalese’s pass put Roberto Firmino clean through on goal. However, the Brazilian blazed over with just Neil Etheridge to beat.

Salah has found his form in front of goal at the right time for Liverpool’s bid for a Premier League and Champions League double.

However, after scoring in three of his past four games, Salah could not keep that streak going as he fired too close to Etheridge when played in by Jordan Henderson.

Cardiff’s massed ranks of defence allowed Liverpool to enjoy nearly 75 percent possession, but the home team did not pose a threat of their own until they nearly took a shock lead just before the break.

Victor Camarasa’s mishit shot fell kindly for Oumar Niasse and the on loan Everton striker nearly brought even more a smile to fans of his parent club on a day they beat Manchester United 4-0, but his shot was turned over by Alisson Becker.

There was little reason for Liverpool to panic at half-time as their previous four Premier League games had also been won with second-half goals and so it proved once more.

Trent Alexander-Arnold bagged his 10th assist of the season as the England international’s corner was pulled back for Wijnaldum to lash into the net first time.

Liverpool’s midfield has begun to chip in with crucial goals at the right time of the season and Henderson should have provided other moments later when he fired wastefully over with the goal at his mercy.

Klopp vented his frustration at Henderson’s miss, and it was nearly costly when Cardiff captain Sean Morrison had a glorious chance to level 26 minutes from time.

Morrison seemed to have the simple task of heading into an empty net as Alisson got caught underneath a corner, but he mistimed his header and the ball instead bounced to safety off his back.

And Morrison was the Cardiff villain at the other end when he was adjudged to have brought down Salah inside the area 10 minutes from time and substitute Milner confidently dispatched the spot-kick.

AFP

Man City Beat Cardiff To Leapfrog Liverpool In League Summit

Manchester City’s Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (C) celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Cardiff City at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north-west England, on April 3, 2019.
Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Manchester City beat Cardiff 2-0 on Wednesday to return to the top of the Premier League, one point ahead of Liverpool.

Kevin De Bruyne gave City the lead in the sixth minute, firing in from a tight angle, and Leroy Sane doubled the advantage for the defending champions with a sharp finish just before half-time.

READ ALSO: Toure And Sterling Blast Juventus Over Kean Abuse

In other English Premier League results;

Chelsea 3-0 Brighton (Giroud 38, Hazard 60, Loftus-Cheek 63)

Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace (Son 55, Eriksen 80)

Cardiff ‘Shocked’ By Sala Pilot Report

Part of the wreckage from the missing Piper Malibu aircraft that disappeared carrying footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson lying on the seabed under the English Channel. / AFP

 

Cardiff claim they are shocked by a report that the pilot in the plane crash that killed Emiliano Sala was not qualified to fly at night.

The Premier League club said they remain “deeply concerned” that the pilot David Ibbotson and those who arranged the flight “seemingly completely disregarded the rules of flying and put Mr Sala’s life in such danger”.

Sala died when the Piper Malibu aircraft they were travelling in came down in the English Channel on January 21, two days after Cardiff had signed the Argentinian striker from French club Nantes.

READ ALSOSala’s Pilot Colour Blind, Not Authorised To Fly At Night – Report

The BBC on Saturday reported Ibbotson was thought to have been colour-blind and that his licence restricted him to flying in daytime hours only.

Cardiff said in a statement: “Cardiff City is shocked to hear the pilot, David Ibbotson, may not have been permitted to fly at night.

“The club remains deeply concerned that the pilot, and those who arranged the flight, seemingly completely disregarded the rules of flying and put Mr Sala’s life in such danger.

“We believe those who are responsible should be held fully accountable for their actions.

“We reiterate our support for the Air Charter Association’s call for more awareness of and better enforcement against illegal flights.”

Nantes Take Sala Transfer Dispute To FIFA

Emiliano Sala/AFP

 

French club Nantes have referred their dispute with Cardiff City over the transfer fee of Emiliano Sala to FIFA, football’s governing body confirmed on Wednesday.

The clubs are wrangling over payment of the fee following the tragic death of Argentinian Sala in an airplane accident in January.

Nantes referred the matter to the sport’s global body after the Welsh side declined to pay an initial six million euros ($6.8 million) of the 17 million euros ($19.4 million) total fee.

“We can confirm that we have received yesterday evening (Tuesday) a claim from FC Nantes against Cardiff City in connection with the transfer of Emiliano Sala,” a FIFA spokesperson said.

“We are looking into the matter and consequently we have no further comments at this stage.”

Cardiff were due to pay the initial six million euros once the transfer had been registered but the club said they wanted to wait for the results of the investigation into the accident before transferring any funds.

“Cardiff City remains committed to ensuring fairness and accountability with respect to the agreement between Cardiff City and FC Nantes, but first and foremost the relevant authorities must be allowed to determine the facts surrounding this tragedy. It is inappropriate to comment further at this stage,” Cardiff said in a statement.

According to the French club, the 28-year-old’s move from France had been completed and an International Transfer Certificate (ITC) issued.

As the ITC had been registered and Sala had been confirmed as a Cardiff player, according to Nantes the Welsh club were obligated to pay for the transfer.

 Mandate expired 

However, Cardiff are concerned about possible irregularities involving the flight from Nantes to Cardiff which resulted in Sala’s death.

Pilot David Ibbotson, 59, was flying Sala to the Premier League outfit on January 21 when the accident happened.

Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said on Monday the plane carrying Sala did not have a commercial licence.

But it said the journey would have been allowed as a “private” flight in which costs are shared between pilot and passenger.

It added that the basis on which Sala was a passenger had not been established.

Football agent Mark McKay had a mandate from Nantes to negotiate the transfer of the professional contract between the two clubs.

Nantes has said that the mandate had expired by the time Sala boarded the flight as he had already signed for Cardiff City.

The investigators also said that since the pilot’s logbook and licence were not recovered, it was unclear whether Ibbotson was authorised to fly at night.

Ibbotson’s body has not been found.

AFP

Cardiff Will Handle Sala’s Transfer Fee ‘In The Right Way’, Says Warnock

Emiliano Sala

 

Manager Neil Warnock said Thursday he is confident that Cardiff will deal with the payment issue over late Argentine striker Emiliano Sala “in the right way”, admitting the matter could have been better handled.

A small aircraft carrying Cardiff’s record £15 million ($19 million) signing from his former club Nantes in France to Britain, disappeared from radar on January 21, two days after he signed for the Premier League club.

The player’s body was recovered on February 7 from the submerged wreck of his plane in the Channel and his funeral was held on Saturday in his home town of Progreso in Argentina.

The body of pilot David Ibbotson has not been found.

Cardiff have so far refused to pay the first instalment of the fee, believed to be £5 million, as they await the results of a probe into the causes of the crash.

According to BBC Wales Sport, both Cardiff and Nantes on Wednesday agreed to a one-week extension to the deadline, meaning the Bluebirds have until February 27 to start paying the fee.

“I’ve known Mehmet Dalman since I’ve been here and I’m quite sure that the club will deal with it in the right way in the next few days because they’ve asked for an extension and I think Nantes have agreed to that,” Warnock told reporters on Thursday.

“I just think certain things were done probably in the reflection that shouldn’t have been done, that stirred everybody up.”

READ ALSO: Sane ‘Sorry’ For Stunning Free-Kick Against Ex-Club Schalke

Warnock declined to go into details at his press conference before his side’s match against Watford on Friday but added: “It created stories that shouldn’t have been done. It should have been kept between the two clubs really.”

Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday that Sala signed a potentially invalid contract with Cardiff.

“The Telegraph understands Sala’s Cardiff contract was deemed non-compliant with Premier League rules and was returned to them for him to sign an amended one,” the report said, adding that such discrepancies were not uncommon.

“Cardiff plan to use Sala’s Premier League registration status to argue he was not their player when he died a month ago,” it added.

Warnock declined to comment on the latest reports.

AFP

Sala’s Death: Cardiff Consider Legal Action Against Nantes Over ‘Negligence’ – Report

Emiliano Sala/AFP

 

Cardiff City could launch a negligence claim against Nantes as soon as next week if an official report finds Emiliano Sala was flown to his death by a pilot who did not have the correct licence, according to Britain’s Sunday Telegraph.

Premier League side Cardiff already find themselves involved in a legal dispute with French side Nantes over whether they are contractually obliged to pay a transfer fee for the Argentinian striker, who died without playing a game for the Welsh side.

Sala had signed for Cardiff for a club record £15 million ($19 million) and was flying to his new team from former side Nantes in France when his plane went missing over the Channel on January 21.

READ ALSO: Sala’s Funeral Takes Place In Argentina

The wreckage was located on the seabed. Sala’s body was recovered but pilot David Ibbotson is still missing. The aircraft remains under the sea.

Details of how Sala died, and who was responsible, could be clarified in the coming days by Britain’s Air Accidents Investigations Bureau, which had previously said it intended to publish an interim report into the crash within a month of it occurring.

The Telegraph said an internal Cardiff inquiry had found no evidence that Ibbotson held the licence necessary to carry passengers on a commercial basis.

If the AAIB report upholds this view, it may constitute the basis for a claim of negligence against whoever recruited Ibbotson as the pilot for Sala’s flight.

Agents Willie and Mark McKay have said they arranged Sala’s flight but did not select the plane or pilot. The pair had been working for Nantes.

A successful negligence claim against Nantes would reduce the transfer fee that Cardiff owed the French club.

And that payment could decrease further if Cardiff can show that Sala’s transfer was incomplete at the time of his death because he had not yet been registered to play in the Premier League.

“We believe that the player was not registered with the Premier League,” Cardiff chairman Mehmet Dalman told the Telegraph.

Sala was buried in his hometown of Progreso in Argentina on Saturday, with Cardiff manager Neil Warnock and club executive Ken Choo among the mourners.

“It was important for us to come and pay the respect to the family,” Warnock told AFP. “People tell me: ‘He never played for you,’ but he was my player, I signed him, we had two or three conversations and he told me he would score the goals to keep Cardiff in the Premier League.”

AFP

Emiliano Sala – The Unorthodox Argentine Striker Made In France

Cardiff In 'Shock' Over Sala's Disappearance
Picture released by Cardiff City FC via Noticias Argentinas, showing Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala posing with Cardiff’s jersey after signing for the club, in Cardiff, on January 20, 2019. HO / NOTICIAS ARGENTINAS / AFP

 

He was born in Argentina, made his name in France but lost his life over the English Channel on his way to play for a Welsh club.

On Thursday, it was confirmed that a body recovered by British investigators from the submerged wreckage of a plane that went down in the Channel was that of footballer Emiliano Sala.

The 28-year-old had agreed to leave Nantes in France for Cardiff in the Premier League for a reported £15 million (17 million euros; $19.3 million) last month.

“For me it feels special,” the 1.87m-tall Argentine forward had said of his new career.

An imposing physical presence but also adept with his feet, Sala was leaving Ligue 1 having scored 12 goals this season.

Little known back home

That tally also matched his statistics for each of the last two campaigns, and only a certain Lionel Messi has scored more goals this season among Argentine players in the big five European leagues.

Despite that, Sala never played for his country and remained little known back in his homeland — an article on the website of popular sports daily Ole last month carried a headline: “Who is Emiliano Sala?”

That is because, like many talented young footballers in Argentina, Sala left for Europe at such a young age.

Born in the province of Santa Fe, Sala developed as a player at Proyecto Crecer (Growth Project), an academy based in the town of San Francisco, four hours north of the capital Buenos Aires.

The academy has a partnership with Bordeaux, and Sala was one of a handful of players to have gone from there to the French side. Another, midfielder Valentin Vada, is currently in their first-team squad.

Having joined Bordeaux aged 20 in 2010, Sala never really broke into their first team, but he had prolific spells on loan in the French lower leagues, including at Niort in Ligue 2.

After another loan stint at Ligue 1 side Caen, Sala was sold to Nantes in 2015 and quickly became a fan favourite for his performances in the famous yellow shirt of the Canaries.

Despite Sala’s importance to Nantes, he was keen to move on, and club president Waldemar Kita was keen to cash in on a player whose contract was due to expire in 2020.

Having finally put pen to paper on his move to Cardiff, Sala was back at Nantes’ Joneliere training base to collect his belongings and wave goodbye to his former teammates before departing for Wales again on what proved to be his doomed flight.

Shipwreck Hunter Urges UK To Urgently Recover Sala’s Body

A picture shows flowers put in front of the entrance of the training center La Joneliere in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre on January 25, 2019, four days after the plane of Argentinian forward Emiliano Sala vanished during a flight from Nantes, western France, to Cardiff in Wales. The 28-year-old Argentine striker is one of two people still missing after contact was lost with the light aircraft he was travelling in on January 21, 2019 night. Sala was on his way to the Welsh capital to train with his new teammates for the first time after completing a£15 million ($19 million) move to Cardiff City from French side Nantes on January 19.
LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

The investigator who found the wreckage of a plane carrying Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala in the Channel called on the authorities Tuesday to urgently recover the unidentified body inside.

“Time is of the essence when you’re talking about a body, so really it’s imperative that they proceed with the recovery of the plane and the body,” shipwreck hunter David Mearns told AFP.

Mearns was hired by Sala’s family to find the light aircraft after it disappeared near the British island of Guernsey on January 21, with the 28-year-old footballer and pilot David Ibbotson on board.

He found the wreckage on Sunday, before British government’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) took over the operation. They revealed on Monday that a body had been found at the site.

Read Also: Footballer Sala’s Missing Plane Found – Investigators

“Finding it is just the starting point. The AAIB has got to investigate it… The best outcome for the families would be to find the plane and recover both bodies,” Mearns said.

“As tragic as the loss is, it’s made much, much worse if the body is never recovered or they never get an answer to what happened.”

He is back at his home in England, but confirmed that AAIB divers are currently on the site, trying to establish what to do next.

“You have to see whether you can lift the plane without disturbing the body and also making sure that you’re picking it all up,” he said.

He said the discovery of two seat cushions on the French coast last week revealed that the plane was broken.

“It’s in one area (on the seabed), it’s all one mass, but some bits may not be connected. So what you don’t want to do is to disturb the body in a way that you lose it,” he said.

‘A matter of will’

The AAIB said it will publish an interim report within the next two weeks and did not respond to immediate requests for further comment.

Mearns is no longer actively involved but he remains in contact with Sala’s family via a group on WhatsApp.

They have raised more than 370,000 euros ($422,000) in an online campaign to pay for the private search, with donations from 4,800 people, including top footballers.

“Had that not happened, I don’t think anybody would have searched for the plane,” Mearns said.

“We were told by the AAIB that they didn’t feel that there was much to be gained… They felt it was going to be more difficult.”

In the end, the AAIB chartered a ship to join Mearns on Sunday, and they identified the wreckage.

He said recovery was now “technically possible — the water depth isn’t an issue really, and the weather can be managed with the right ship”.

“It’s a matter of will to do it,” he added.

Mearns was keen to praise the efforts by the Guernsey authorities in the days immediately after the plane disappeared. They called off the search only after concluding that no one would be found alive.

Sala was flying from France to join up with his new club, Premier League side Cardiff City, when the Piper PA-46 Malibu plane dropped off the radar north of Guernsey.

Cardiff Struggled To Sign Players After Sala’s Disappearance, Says Warnock

File photo: Emiliano Sala

Cardiff manager Neil Warnock says some players did not want to join the club in the January transfer window after the disappearance of the plane carrying new signing Emiliano Sala.

Cardiff manager Neil Warnock says some players did not want to join the club in the January transfer window after the disappearance of the plane carrying new signing Emiliano Sala.

Sala and pilot David Ibbotson remain missing after the light aircraft carrying them over the Channel disappeared on January 21, two days after the Argentine striker completed a club-record £15 million ($20 million) move to Cardiff.

“One or two of the strikers we were talking about didn’t really want to come in the circumstances,” the Cardiff boss said ahead of Saturday’s Premier League home game against Bournemouth.

“They didn’t want to come in after what’s happened. So it’s been a very difficult window.”

British investigators said this week it was “likely” that two seat cushions that washed up on the French shore were from the missing plane carrying Sala.

READ ALSO: US Imposes Visa Restrictions On Ghana

The 28-year-old was flying in the Piper PA-46 Malibu plane after transferring from French team Nantes.

It vanished from radar around 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of the Channel island of Guernsey, with Ibbotson the only other person aboard.

Cardiff paid an emotional tribute to Sala before their match against Arsenal on Tuesday, which they lost 2-1. Nantes also paid tribute to their former player.

Cardiff, third from bottom of the Premier League, did recruit Reading midfielder Leandro Bacuna on Thursday.

AFP

Search Resumes For Missing Plane Of Cardiff Striker Sala

Nantes’ Argentinian Italian forward Emiliano Sala during the French L1 football match between Stade Rennais (Stade Resnais FC) and Nantes (FC Nantes) at The Roazhon Park in Rennes. AFP

 

Rescue workers on Thursday spent a third day hunting for a missing plane near the British island of Guernsey carrying new Premier League player Emiliano Sala, who is now presumed dead along with the pilot.

The light aircraft transporting the Argentine striker, who signed for Cardiff City at the weekend, disappeared from radar around 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Guernsey on Monday night.

“The search is ongoing and a decision about continuing will be made once all assets have completed this morning’s search pattern,” Guernsey police said on Twitter at 1050 GMT.

Police on the island, which sits off the north coast of France, had earlier announced a resumption of the search after suspending efforts overnight.

Officials scoured the uninhabited island of Burhou, northeast of Guernsey, by foot Thursday morning, according to the force.

“No trace of the aircraft or those on board has been found,” it added.

Multiple aircraft, including from Britain and France, and lifeboats were used in the intensive search on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A pilot involved in the operations said there was now “no chance” of finding survivors.

Mike Tidd, from Channel Islands Air Search —  a voluntary rescue service for local waters — told Britain’s ITV: “The area has been very well covered, there is absolutely no chance of finding anybody alive now.”

He added that the most rescuers could hope to do was “pinpoint where the aircraft went in”.

 ‘It’s going to fall apart’ 

Sala, who signed on Saturday from French club Nantes for a reported fee of 17 million euros ($19.3 million), was flying to Cardiff in a single-engine Piper PA-46 Malibu aircraft.

Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), which is probing the disappearance, said the plane was registered in the United States.

It has emerged the Argentine footballer expressed concerns about the jet on the flight, according to an audio message sent to friends and relatives.

“I’m on a plane that looks like it’s going to fall apart,” the 28-year-old said in a rambling WhatsApp audio message from on board.

Police earlier said rescuers had spotted “a number of floating objects in the water” but had not been able to confirm whether these were linked to the plane.

The Guernsey coastguard on Wednesday named the pilot, the only other person in the plane, as David Ibbotson.

British media said he was a 60-year-old married father of three and lived in Scunthorpe in northern England.

Football agent Mark McKay confirmed Thursday he was involved in making the travel arrangements for Sala between France and Wales through the player and his agent Meissa N’Diaye.

“I began to look into arranging a private flight to take him to Nantes on Saturday morning,” he told Britain’s Sky Sports News.

“That evening, it was confirmed a plane was available to fly Emiliano on Saturday which could remain in Nantes until he was due to return to Cardiff.

“I have been in contact with officials from Cardiff and the player’s agent over these difficult past few days and will continue to do so.”

In Sala’s Argentine hometown of Progreso, his father Horacio told the press on Tuesday that as “the hours go by and I don’t know anything, it makes me fear the worst”.

The striker, who had been at Nantes since 2015 and had scored 13 goals in all competitions this season, had signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with relegation-threatened Cardiff subject to receiving international clearance.

The club called off Tuesday’s training session, and stunned supporters laid flowers and scarves outside the club’s stadium.

Tributes were paid to Sala at several French Cup matches this week, while his former Nantes teammate Yacine Bammou pointed towards the sky in an emotional celebration after scoring for Caen on Wednesday.

AFP

Fears Over Fate Of Sala, Others As Search For Missing Plane Is Suspended

Cardiff In 'Shock' Over Sala's Disappearance
A picture released by Cardiff City FC via Noticias Argentinas, showing Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala posing with Cardiff’s jersey after signing for the club, in Cardiff, on January 20, 2019. HO / NOTICIAS ARGENTINAS / AFP

 

The search for a missing plane carrying Premier League club Cardiff City’s record new signing, Emiliano Sala, to his new team in the UK was called off for the evening on Tuesday.

The Argentine striker, signed on Saturday from French club Nantes for a reported fee of 17 million euros ($19.3 million), was flying to Cardiff aboard the plane that disappeared from radars around 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of the island of Guernsey on Monday night.

The search continued throughout Tuesday before being suspended for the night, with police on the British island warning that survival chances were “slim” if the aircraft landed on water.

A 15-hour search covering a 1,155 square-mile (3,000 square-kilometre) area in the Channel spotted “a number of floating objects in the water”, Guernsey police added.

“We have found no signs of those on board. If they did land on the water, the chances of survival are at this stage, unfortunately, slim.”

French civil aviation authorities had confirmed that 28-year-old Sala “was on board the plane”. It is thought there was one other passenger on the aircraft.

Police on Guernsey, which sits just off the north coast of France, said the pilot had requested to lower his altitude shortly before air traffic control in neighbouring Jersey lost contact with the plane.

– ‘Fearing the worst’ –

One of the rescuers searching for the missing plane earlier admitted they were “fearing the worst”, thoughts echoed by Sala’s father Horacio.

“Sadly we are fearing the worst…the sea temperature is so cold at the moment,” John Fitzgerald, Chief Officer of Channel Islands Air Search, told AFP.

A tearful Horacio Sala told the press in Progreso, where the player’s family lives, that as “the hours go by and I don’t know anything, it makes me fear the worst”.

“I don’t know anything. Nobody spoke to me, not a call from the embassy, the club, nobody,” he said. “All I want is for you to find him.”

The player’s mother, Mercedes, claimed in an interview with Argentine television channel C5N that the plane belonged to the Cardiff chairman, Mehmet Dalman.

Sala, who had been at Nantes since 2015 and had scored 13 goals in all competitions this season, had signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with relegation-threatened Cardiff subject to receiving international clearance.

“We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing. We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team,” the Premier League club’s executive director Ken Choo said in a statement.

“We continue to pray for positive news.”

Cardiff called off a training session planned for Tuesday morning, and stunned supporters gathered outside the club’s ground to lay flowers and scarves.

With his former teammates in shock, Nantes had their French Cup tie against third-tier side Entente Sannois Saint-Gratien postponed from Wednesday until Sunday.

– Fans hold vigil –

Meanwhile, hundreds of fans of his former team gathered for a vigil in the western French city on Tuesday evening, placing flowers, scarves and flags on the water fountain and chanting the striker’s name at Place Royale.

“I still have hope, he is a fighter,” said Nantes president Waldemar Kita in a tweet published by the Ligue 1 club.

When he put pen to paper at relegation-threatened Cardiff on Saturday, Sala, who also has Italian nationality, said in a statement: “I’m very happy to be here. It gives me great pleasure and I can’t wait to start training, meet my new team-mates and get down to work.

“For me it feels special (to be the club’s record signing). I have come here wanting to work and to help my team-mates and the club.”

Sala’s last post on Instagram showed him surrounded by players from Nantes. “La ultima ciao (the last goodbye),” he wrote.

The accident, if confirmed, comes only three months after Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the Thai billionaire owner of Leicester City, died in a helicopter crash that shocked the club and supporters around the world.

Sala began his footballing career at French club Bordeaux, who he joined in 2010, and had loan spells at other French clubs including Orleans, Niort and Caen.

He joined Nantes in 2015 for one million euros and had scored 42 Ligue 1 goals in three and a half seasons at the Stade de la Beaujoire.

AFP