Sala Emiliano

Emiliano Raúl Sala Taffarel was an Argentine professional footballer who played as a forward. After playing youth football in Argentina and following a short spell in Portugal’s regional leagues, Sala began his professional career in France with Bordeaux, making his professional debut in February 2012. After struggling to break into the first team, he was loaned out to Championnat National side Orléans and Ligue 2 side Niort in consecutive seasons. He enjoyed prolific spells with both clubs, scoring 39 goals between them, before returning to Bordeaux. After initially being promised an increased role after his successful loans, Sala fell out of favour again, and instead, joined fellow Ligue 1 side Caen on loan. In 2015, he signed for Nantes on a permanent basis. With Nantes, he made more than 100 appearances in Ligue 1, and achieved a successful goalscoring record, finishing as the club’s top goalscorer for three consecutive seasons. His form prompted a move to Cardiff City in January 2019, for a club record fee of £15 million (€18 million). Sala died in a plane crash off Alderney on 21 January 2019. He was flying from Nantes to Cardiff aboard a Piper Malibu light aircraft. An initial three-day search covered 1,700 square miles (4,400 km2) across the English Channel. Two subsequent private searches were launched, resulting in the discovery of the wreckage on 3 February; Sala’s body was recovered four days later.

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Emiliano Sala stated that he modelled his style on his idol, former Argentine international forward Gabriel Batistuta. BBC Sport compared Sala to Jamie Vardy, describing him as “a player who likes wide spaces and being part of a team that has a strong counter-attacking style.” A large and powerful striker, he was also recognized for his ability to hold the ball up and was described as possessing “reasonable” pace; he also drew praise in the media for his work-rate, tenacity, eye for goal, and finishing ability.


Nantes vs Auxerre

January 23rd 2018

Coupe de France

Match Worn & Unwashed Shirt

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Emiliano Sala joined Ligue 1 club Nantes on a five-year contract on July 15th 2015 with Nantes paying a reported transfer fee of €1 million to Bordeaux. He made his debut for Nantes on the opening day of the 2015–16 season, during a 1–0 victory over Guingamp, and scored his first goal for the club on 5 December 2015 in a 1–1 draw with Ajaccio. In January 2016, Nantes rejected a bid of £3 million from Wolverhampton Wanderers for Sala. In his first season, despite scoring only six times, he finished the year as the club’s top goalscorer. During his second season, Sala scored twelve league goals for Nantes, the highest scoring player in a single season for the club since Olivier Monterrubio in 2000–01. He equaled his tally again in the 2017–18 season, finishing as Nantes’ top scorer for the third consecutive season since his arrival at the club. At the start of the 2018–19 season, Sala fell out of favour under new manager Miguel Cardoso who preferred Kalifa Coulibaly as the club’s first choice striker. Turkish side Galatasaray made a late bid to sign Sala on the last day of the summer transfer window but the move later collapsed. Sala twice made goalscoring appearances as a substitute and was restored to the starting line up under Cardoso before the manager was sacked in October 2018. Vahid Halilhodžić was appointed as the club’s new manager and in his first match in charge, on 20 October 2018, Sala scored a hat-trick in a 4–0 Ligue 1 home win over Toulouse. He thus became the first FC Nantes player to score three goals in a Ligue 1 match since Mamadou Diallo did so against FC Sochaux-Montbéliard in February 2006. At the end of October, he was voted Ligue 1 Player of the Month having scored four goals in three matches during the month. Sala’s good form saw him as the joint-highest goalscorer in Ligue 1 at the start of December, his tally of twelve goals tied with Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappé. On 5 December, Sala scored his last goal for the club in a 3–2 Ligue 1 home victory over Olympique de Marseille. On 16 January 2019, he played his final match for the club in a 1–0 Ligue 1 away defeat against Nîmes Olympique. On 19 January 2019, Sala joined Premier League side Cardiff City on a three and a half-year deal for a club record transfer fee, reported to be £15 million. The transfer beat the previous club record of £11 million paid for Gary Medel in 2013. As part of a sell-on clause, 50% of the transfer fee was due to his first professional club Bordeaux. Sala rejected a late bid from a club in the Chinese Super League to join Cardiff, despite being offered a higher transfer fee and salary, due to his desire to play in the Premier League. Following Sala’s death, Nantes demanded the transfer fee from Cardiff.

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Emiliano Sala was born in the town of Cululú, Santa Fe Province, Argentina, to Horacio Sala and Mercedes Taffarel. His father worked as a truck driver; the family later moved to Progreso. He held an Italian passport. He had a brother, Dario, and a sister, Romina. He was a fan of Independiente and, while growing up, he studied footage of his favourite footballer, Gabriel Batistuta. On January 19th 2019 Sala joined Cardiff City. In the same morning, after completing his medical at Cardiff, Emiliano returned to Nantes on a plane arranged by football agent Mark McKay. His intention was to return to Cardiff on 21 January in order to attend his first training session with his new club the following morning. Sala had been invited to attend Cardiff’s match against Newcastle United by manager Neil Warnock, but he returned to France to say goodbye to his Nantes teammates and collect personal belongings. On 21 January the Piper Malibu aircraft, which was flying Sala from Nantes to Cardiff, disappeared off Alderney. The same aircraft and pilot had flown Sala to Nantes two days earlier. On 23 January, Channel Islands Air Search reported that there was “no hope” of finding any survivors in the water. An audio message, allegedly sent from the plane by Sala to his friends via WhatsApp, was released by Argentine media outlet Olé. Guernsey Police initially searched for three days over 1,700 square miles (4,400 km2) across the English Channel. At 15:15 GMT on 24 January 2019, after a “very thorough and extensive search” including eighty hours of combined searching undertaken by three planes, five helicopters and two lifeboats, the police announced that they had called off the search for the aircraft or any survivors. The decision led to calls worldwide for the search to continue, including numerous other footballers, among them fellow Argentine players Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuaín, Sergio Agüero and former player Diego Maradona. Some top players and fans have handed in donations to try and find the missing striker. Efforts to give closure to Emiliano Sala’s story, for better or for worse, are being fueled by the family and those who have been touched by the story. After the decision by Guernsey police to stop searching for any trace of the aircraft, the player or the pilot, it was up to the player’s relatives to carry on with the search, and support has come from around the world to keep up with these proceedings. Surprisingly, the world of football has stepped up to try and help. A GoFundMe website was created to help raise over £300,000 to help the family in their attemps to find Sala.Donations poured in from about 1,700 fans and footballers across Europe and the page hit its £150,000 target in less than 24 hours. A new goal has been extended to £500,000 after footballers including Manchester City’s German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan and PSG’s France international Adrien Rabiot donated towards the cause. The list of names that have chipped in also includes Geoffrey Kondogbia, Corentin Tolisso, Maxime Gonalons, Gonzalo Higuain, Ngolo Kante and Laurent Koscielny. FIFPro has also made a donation, according to the website.The president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, stated his intention to request the British and French governments to resume the search. An online petition also attracted over 65,000 signatures and Sala’s family later announced their decision to fund a private search. Over £280,000 was raised for this search on GoFundMe started by Sports Cover, a sports agency that represented Sala. The funds enabled the private search to commence on 26 January, with the launch of two boats, led by marine scientist David Mearns. On 28 January, plans were announced for an underwater search to begin “within a week”, dependent on weather conditions, using an unmanned remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) to search an area of seabed north of Hurd’s Deep. On 29 January, Cardiff City included Sala on the team sheet for their game against Arsenal, with a daffodil next to his name in place of a squad number. On 30 January, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) reported that they had found two seat cushions washed up on a French beach, which were believed to be from the missing aircraft. On 3 February, another underwater search for the aircraft began, using the AAIB’s Geo Ocean III vessel and a privately-funded vessel, which were conducting sonar surveys of the seabed. The planned search, lasting three days, would cover an area of 4 square nautical miles (14 km2; 5.3 sq mi), about 24 nautical miles (44 km; 28 mi) north of Guernsey. At approximately 21:11 GMT, six hours after the new search began, wreckage from the aircraft was found at a depth of 63 metres (207 ft). On 4 February, investigators stated that there was one body visible inside the wreckage. On 7 February, the body was recovered from the wreckage and taken to the Isle of Portland to be passed to the Dorset coroner. Later that day, Dorset Police identified the body as Sala’s by means of fingerprint evidence. 

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Nantes decided to retire his former number 9 jersey. On February 10th, a day of mourning for Emiliano Sala, Nantes players walked into the field dressed all in black with Sala’s name on their backs as the crowd chanted for him over and over again. ‘La la la la la la la la, Em-il-ia-no,’ fans sang, before breaking out in a minute’s applause. This was observed at all stadiums in the top two divisions in France. On 11 February the results of a post mortem reported that Sala had died of “head and trunk injuries”. Sala’s funeral was held in his hometown of Progreso on 16 February 2019. On 25 February 2019, a Special Bulletin was issued by the AAIB. On 28 February ex-football agent Willie McKay, who had arranged the flight, said that Sala had been “abandoned” by Cardiff City and was left to arrange his own travel. McKay’s son Mark was Nantes’ acting agent in the deal for Sala. The football club said they “strongly reject” the claim they neglected to provide Sala with travel arrangements.

“Hello, my brothers, how are you? Boy, I’m tired. I was here in Nantes taking care of things, things, things, things, things, things, and it never stops, it never stops, it never stops. Anyway guys, I’m up in this plane that feels like it’s falling to pieces, and I’m going to Cardiff. It’s crazy, we start tomorrow. Training in the afternoon, guys, in my new team… Let’s see what happens. So, how’s it going with you guys, all good? If in an hour and a half you have no news from me, I don’t know if they are going to send someone to look for me because they cannot find me, but you will know… Man, I’m scared!” Emiliano Sala

Things to Know:

On January 30th before the home game against Saint-Etienne the entire squad wore shirts with Sala’s name on the back of them and there was an emotional minute’s silence, and pre-match huddle, before the game got under way. Also some Cardiff fans made their way to France for the match, holding up the same banner they took to the Emirates for their Premier League match against Arsenal. In another special moment during the game, the referee blew his whistle and called a halt to the game in the ninth minute – Sala’s shirt number – for a heartfelt round of applause. Players from both clubs, as well as fans in the stadium, joined in the applause on the pitch as the crowd sung Sala’s name. Nantes’ manager, Vahid Halilhodzic, was visibly overcome with emotion during the tribute.