Cardiff City have been left stunned after Nantes demanded payment for the £15million transfer of Emiliano Sala, who is missing and feared dead, after his flight went off-radar on a journey from France to Cardiff.
The Premier League club were shocked to receive a formal letter from Nantes on Tuesday asking for payment within 10 days.
The two clubs are now embroiled in a legal dispute.
Cardiff have been left stunned after Nantes demanded the £15m payment for Emiliano Sala
Sala’s plane was found this week at the bottom of the Channel after an underwater search
Cardiff’s first payment would ordinarily be due within seven days of the player signing, but the club do not intend to make any payments until the conclusion of official investigations into the causes of his disappearance.
However, Nantes made an email request last Thursday and then followed it up with a formal written request on Tuesday.
On Wednesday night, Cardiff City chairman Mehmet Dalman confirmed Nantes’ request in an interview with L’Equipe. He said: ‘The only thing I can say because it is a sensitive subject is that I confirm that what you are saying is true.
Nantes submitted a formal letter to Cardiff on Tuesday asking for payment within 10 days
Vincent Tan’s Cardiff will withhold payment until investigation over disappearance is complete
‘And to be honest, I do not want to say anything more in the state. The first thing is that the body has not been recovered yet. We must show respect to the family.
‘There is the process of recovering the plane. It’s too early for us to comment. When we think it’s the right time to do it (we will comment). I do not think the Cardiff club said it was not going to pay.’
Sala’s mother, sister and brother have this week been in the company of the Argentine consular in France as investigations continued after a private plane carrying Sala and pilot David Ibbotson went off-radar on January 21.
Sala’s mother (C) has been with the Argentine consular in France as investigations continue
The situation has been made more complicated by Bordeaux having 50 per cent sell-on clause
A body has been located in the aircraft but the two families were still to be informed of the identity as of Wednesday.
The Sala family are currently in Nantes anxiously awaiting the fate of Emiliano and are still to learn whether it is even his body in the aircraft.
There is understandable bewilderment from those close to Sala that distasteful financial discussions can even be taking place while the search for his body continues.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch have been searching the English channel for the wreckage.
This map shows the position where the wreckage of the plane carrying Sala was discovered
Marine scientist David Mearns has confirmed a body has been located still in the aircraft
An official investigation into the crash, including the pilot’s qualifications and the condition of the plane, is likely to follow.
The situation is further complicated as French club Bordeaux are also due 50 per cent of the reported £15m transfer due to a clause inserted when Sala joined Nantes in 2015.
Last week Bordeaux publicly denied that they had invoiced Nantes for their cut of the deal. When contacted by Sportsmail to establish whether they intend to pursue their fee, Bordeaux did not respond.
Cardiff are understood to be insured up to £16m but the club may still incur excess when it comes to covering the salary for the duration of Sala’s three-and-a-half-year contract and the lost revenue that was anticipated for their club-record signing. This would take the overall value of the transfer to around £25m.
The Piper Malibu carrying Sala from Nantes to Cardiff vanished over Alderney on January 21
A picture of the type of plane which was supposed to deliver the striker to Cardiff safely
EMILIANO SALA TIMELINE
Wednesday, 5 December, 2018: Cardiff manager Neil Warnock first reveals his interest in signing Sala after travelling to France to watch the striker play for Nantes against Marseilles.
Thursday, 27 December: Cardiff’s pursuit of Sala looks to be over after having their bid rejected by Nantes.
Tuesday, 1 January, 2019: As the January transfer window opens, Cardiff revive their interest in Sala and resume negotiations with Nantes over a fee worth around £15m.
Wednesday, 16 January: Sala starts on the bench against Nimes amid speculation around his future and comes on in the second half for what would be his last game for Nantes.
Friday, 18 January: Sala travels to Cardiff to have a medical and discuss personal terms at Cardiff City Stadium, where he is pictured with Bluebirds fans afterwards.
Saturday, 19 January: Cardiff confirm their club-record signing of Sala for an undisclosed fee thought to be around £15m.
Sunday, 20 January: Sala travels back to Nantes to say goodbye to his team-mates and collect his belongings as he prepares for his move to Cardiff.
Monday, 21 January: Sala flies from Nantes to Cardiff at 19:15 but, at 20:30, the Piper Malibu light aircraft he is aboard goes missing off Alderney in the Channel Islands.
The plane had been flying at 5,000ft when it contacted Jersey air traffic control requesting descent, the plane lost contact while at 2,300ft.
Tuesday, 22 January: Searches for the plane are suspended at 02:00 ‘due to strengthening winds, worsening sea conditions and reducing visibility’, according to police, before the search resumes at 08:00.
Wednesday, 23 January: Search and rescue operations for the plane resumed early on Wednesday. Sala’s father, Horatio, said he was ‘beginning to think the worst.’
Friday, 25 January: The search for the missing plane is called off after rescuers failed to find ‘any trace’ of it.
Guernsey’s harbour master Captain David Barker said the chances Sala and his pilot David Ibbotson had survived were ‘extremely remote’.
Monday, 28 January: Over €300,000 is raised to help pay for a private search for Sala. The fund exceeded the target after a donation of €30,010 from Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe.
Wednesday, 30 January: Two seat cushions from the plane carrying Sala are found washed up on a beach in north-west France.
Thursday, 31 January: A piece of debris found washed ashore in the Port of Rotterdam by local police is found. Quickly confirmed it did not come from the plane carrying Sala
Monday, 4 February: Underwater video footage shows one occupant visible in wreckage of the plane which was carrying Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala. The body is yet to be identified.
Nantes are responsible for paying the intermediaries involved. In November, the club enlisted the services of Mercato Ltd, the business run by Mark McKay and his father Willie, who helped organise the doomed flight. Agents Bakari Sanogo and Baba Drame are also due cuts from the Nantes side of the deal.
If the air investigation is followed by involvement from the police, it could therefore be years before the financial and legal disputes are resolved.
In the fortnight following his disappearance, much of the support for the family has come from Sala’s personal agent Meissa N’Diaye, who has worked with the French equivalent of the Professional Footballers’ Association to fundraise for the private search that located part of the aircraft on the seabed.
Willie McKay (pictured) and his son Mark helped organise Sala’s doomed flight to Cardiff
N’Diaye, who also represents Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy and Crystal Palace’s Michy Batshuayi, had no involvement with the McKays and has pledged he will provide all the necessary support to the family in the months and years to come.
The Sala family are currently staying in Nantes. When asked to detail what the French club are doing to support the family, the club did not respond.
Sala is understood to have been unhappy at Nantes for much of the past 18 months. His contract was due to expire next year and, despite public suggestions he would be offered a renewal, no offer was forthcoming.
Attempts were then made to sell Sala to Italy last summer and, in November, the mandate was granted to British intermediary Mark McKay to secure a transfer by the end of the January transfer window.
Sala had previously turned down a move to China last February and a proposed transfer that would have seen him secure £4.5m per year (net) in salary.
Fans laid flowers and tributes outside the Cardiff City stadium before their game last weekend
Nantes fans display a banner of Sala last month in their first match since his disappearance
When Sala, a fluent Spanish and French speaker, received an email from Willie McKay touting the Cardiff move in his personal inbox, he was baffled as he did not speak any English.
Indeed, it is believed his initial response to the email was a firm ‘no’. He was not keen on the transfer to Wales but feeling forced out at Nantes and, aware that Cardiff were the only serious bidders, the striker warmed to the move over the course of January.
Indeed, on his first trip to Wales, he left the premises still undecided as to whether to make the move and insisted he took time to discuss things with friends and family. Ultimately, the transfer went through and the ramifications will endure for years to come.