• Wed. Oct 5th, 2022

Emiliano Sala felt under “a lot of pressure” to complete a transfer to the Premier League shortly before he died in a plane crash as he headed to his new club, an inquest heard on Tuesday.

The Argentina-born striker was joining Cardiff, then in the English top-flight, in a £15 million ($20 million) switch from French Ligue 1 side Nantes.

Dorset Coroner’s Court, in southern England, heard that the 28-year-old was on board a private plane flying from Nantes to the Welsh capital on the evening of January 21, 2019 when it crashed in the English Channel, close to Guernsey.

Pilot David Ibbotson, 59, was also killed but his body has never been found.

On the first day of an inquest into the footballer’s death, Sala’s mother, Mercedes Taffarel, told the court in a written statement that her son was happy when he “eventually accepted the idea of a move”.

“He felt it was the right time to move clubs and to another league,” she said.

“It seemed to him that the Nantes management was also pushing his exit from the club because they were going through some financial problems.”

She said the weeks leading up to his death, in December 2018 and January 2019, “seemed very intense”.

“Cardiff put on a lot of pressure on him to complete the sale quickly but Nantes asked for more money and Emi felt in the middle of the dispute,” Taffarel added.

“Emi was in some doubt to go ahead with the move. Finally, the sale was agreed, not because of his performances as a player at Nantes, which were very good, but because Nantes needed the money.”

Taffarel said she spoke to her son regularly and, when she did not hear from him on the day of the flight, she assumed he had gone to bed early after arriving in Wales.

The following day she learned that the plane carrying her son was missing.

Eventually her family organised their own sea search and the plane was located with Sala’s body inside.

She said: “No-one can bring Emi back to us, but we ask for justice so that Emi can rest in peace and give us a little bit of peace of mind knowing that we did everything we could so similar deaths are prevented in the future.

“Our pain will never go away and we carry it with us all the time. All we ask for is justice and we want no stone unturned to find out what happened.”

David Henderson, the businessman who organised the flight that crashed in the Channel, was jailed in November for 18 months for flouting safety rules.

The inquest into Sala’s death is due to last about five weeks.

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