Cardiff fans have expressed their shock after it was confirmed the club’s record signing Emiliano Sala was onboard a plane that went missing over the English channel on Monday night.
The Argentine star, who cost the Premier League club £15 million, was one of three people flying back to Wales from Nantes – where he had gone to say goodbye to his former team-mates.
Cardiff City’s chief executive Ken Choo said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon: ‘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.
Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation.
‘We made the decision first thing this morning to call off training with the thoughts of the squad, management staff and the entire Club with Emiliano and the pilot.
‘All of us at Cardiff City FC would like to thank our fans, and the entire footballing family for their support at this difficult time.
HOMETOWN: Cululu las Colonias, Argentina
2011-2015 – Bordeaux
2012-13 – US Orleans (loan)
2013-14 – Niort (loan)
2015 – Caen (loan)
2015-19 – Nantes
2019 – Cardiff
‘We continue to pray for positive news.’
Choo described Sala as a ‘great person’ and revealed he had been ‘so happy’ to sign for Cardiff.
He said in an in-house TV interview: ‘You could see from his face he is so, so happy to be here and so ready to start.
‘Words cannot describe the look on his face when he met us, we walked him around the ground, he was absolutely ready to give it a go.
‘We really feel sad to hear of this news because we met such a great person.
‘You could see the happiness on his face to sign to Cardiff City was one of the best days of his life. So we are very sad.’
On Tuesday Nantes President Waldemar Kita said: ‘He was a polite, kind and adorable boy, loved by everyone. He was very respectful, very courteous. I am thinking about his family and all his friends.
He added: ‘I am still hoping that it is not finished, that he is somewhere, that he will be there. I have just found about this like you have.’
Nantes coach Vahid Halilhodzic spoke briefly as he left the club’s training ground: ‘What do you want me to say to you? I am appalled. The period was already very delicate, but here it is very difficult. We are waiting but we do not have many illusions. We expect the worst.’
Nantes also released a statement in response to the news: ‘FC Nantes learned this morning the very disturbing news about the disappearance of the plane carrying Emiliano Sala.
‘This plane bound for Cardiff would have crashed at sea off the Channel Islands.
‘The management and the whole Club keep hope and it is the whole family of FC Nantes who prays that Emiliano and the other passengers of the plane are finally found safe and sound.
‘I’m thinking of his friends, his family, I’m still in hope, he’s a fighter, it’s not over, maybe he’s somewhere, waiting for some news that we hope will be positive, we are very touched by all the support received since this morning, ‘ says [club president] Waldemar Kita.’