CARDIFF – Cardiff City have been left stunned after Nantes demanded payment for the £15million transfer of Emiliano Sala, who is missing and presumed dead after his flight crashed in the Channel on a journey from France to Wales.
The Premier League club received a formal letter from Nantes on Tuesday asking for payment within 10 days.
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 investigations into the causes of Sala’s disappearance are concluded.
However, Nantes made an email request last Thursday and followed it up with a formal written request.
There is understandable bewilderment from those close to Sala that distasteful financial discussions and a legal dispute can be taking place while he is still missing.
Yesterday, his mother, sister and brother were in Nantes awaiting news.
A body has been located in the aircraft carrying Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, which went off-radar on January 21, but the two families were still to be informed of the identity yesterday.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch have been searching the English Channel for wreckage.
An official investigation into the crash, focusing on the pilot’s qualifications and the condition of the plane, is likely to follow.
The situation is complicated by Bordeaux being due 50 per cent of the £15m transfer under an agreement made when Sala joined Nantes in 2015.
Last week, Bordeaux 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 for up to £16m but the club may incur costs 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 after their club-record signing. This would take the overall value of the transfer to around £25m.
Nantes are responsible for paying any intermediaries. 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 be years before the financial and legal disputes are resolved.
In the fortnight following Sala’s disappearance, much of the support for the family has come from his personal agent Meissa N’Diaye, who has worked with the French equivalent of the Professional Footballers’ Association to raise money for the private search that located part of the aircraft on the seabed.
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.
When asked to detail what the French club are doing to support the family, Nantes did not respond.
The Argentine striker 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 made to sell Sala to Italy last summer and, in November, Nantes gave Mark McKay a mandate to secure a transfer by the end of the January transfer window.
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Sala turned down a move to China last February and a proposed transfer that would have seen him secure £4.5m per year in salary.
When Sala received an email from Willie McKay touting the Cardiff move, he was baffled as he did not speak any English. It is believed his initial response to the email was a firm ‘no’.
Sala 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. 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.
Nantes did not respond when asked for comment by Sportsmail.