Emiliano Sala: The striker from Argentina who was made in France

Footballer Emiliano Sala is feared dead after French authorities confirmed that he was on board a light aircraft that disappeared over the English Channel. Here's a profile of the striker who was born in Argentina but made in France.

Emiliano Sala: The striker from Argentina who was made in France
Photo: AFP

“Everyone is happy, except me,” said the Nantes coach Vahid Halilhodzic last week as he accepted that his leading scorer, Emiliano Sala, was leaving the club in a record transfer to Premier League side Cardiff City.

The Welsh club had agreed to pay a reported £15 million (17 million euros; $19.3 million) for the 1.87m-tall Argentine forward, hoping that his eye for goal would fire them to Premier League safety.

Now Sala, 28, is feared dead after French authorities confirmed that he was on board a light aircraft that disappeared over the English Channel on Monday night, just north of the island of Guernsey.

He was on his way from Nantes back to Wales, having signed a lucrative three-and-a-half-year contract in Cardiff on Saturday. “For me it feels special,” he said of being Cardiff's record signing.

It was a move that looked in doubt at one point, with Sala having previously expressed a desire to join a club involved in European competition in the event of a transfer away from Nantes, the eight-time French champions.

An imposing physical presence but also adept with his feet, Sala left Ligue 1 having scored 12 goals this season, a tally currently bettered only by Paris Saint-Germain's superstar trio of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani, as well as Nicolas Pepe of Lille.

Little known back home 

That tally also matched his statistics for each of the last two campaigns, and only a certain Lionel Messi has scored more goals this season among Argentine players in the big five European leagues.

Despite that, Sala has never played for his country and remains little known back in his homeland — an article on the website of popular sports daily Ole on Tuesday carried the headline: “Who is Emiliano Sala?”

That is because, like many talented young footballers in Argentina, Sala left for Europe at such a young age.

Born in the province of Santa Fe, Sala developed as a player at Proyecto Crecer (Growth Project), an academy based in the town of San Francisco, four hours north of the capital Buenos Aires.

The academy has a partnership with Bordeaux, and Sala is one of a handful of players to have gone from there to the French side. Another, midfielder 
Valentin Vada, is currently in their first-team squad.

Having joined Bordeaux aged 20 in 2010, Sala never really broke into their first team, but he had prolific spells on loan in the French lower leagues, including at Niort in Ligue 2.

After another loan stint at Ligue 1 side Caen, Sala was sold to Nantes in 2015 and quickly became a fan favourite for his performances in the famous yellow shirt of the Canaries.

“People see the way he fights for every ball. That encourages his teammates to do the same. He is a good example for everyone,” said Claudio Ranieri, his 
coach at Nantes last season.

Despite Sala's importance to Nantes, he was keen to move on, and club president Waldemar Kita was keen to cash in on a player whose contract was due to expire in 2020.

Having finally put pen to paper on his move to Cardiff, Sala was back at Nantes' Joneliere training base on Monday to collect his belongings and wave 
goodbye to his former teammates before departing for Wales again.

He would have been hoping to make his Premier League bow away at Arsenal next Tuesday.

“@EmilianoSala1, forever in yellow and green,” tweeted Nantes on Monday evening, along with the hashtag #MerciEmi.

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French prosecutors demand jail term for Russian accused of leaving England football fan with brain damage

French prosecutors on Friday called for a 15-year prison sentence for one of two Russians accused of beating a British supporter during Euro 2016, an attack that left him with brain injuries.

French prosecutors demand jail term for Russian accused of leaving England football fan with brain damage
Russian fans light flares at the match against England in 2016.. Photo: AFP

One prosecutor, Christophe Raffin, asked for the “legal maximum… between 14 and 15 years” for Pavel Kossov, who is accused of throwing the first punch at 55-year-old Andrew Bache.

Bache was injured in the violence that broke out before England played Russia in the southern French port city of Marseille on June 11th, 2016.

The second Russian on trial in Aix-en-Provence, Mikhail Ivkine, stands accused of throwing a chair at the victim, with prosecutors asking for a potential suspended sentence of up to five years.

He has claimed he was defending himself.

“No, it wasn't legitimate self-defence, it was illegitimate use of force against Andrew Bache,” Raffin said of the violence.


Police give emergency aid to Andrew Bache following clashes in the city of Marseille. Photo: AFP

The prosecutors said the Russians were part of a group of about 150 men, many with martial arts training, who wrought havoc in Marseille.

Bache, from Portsmouth in southern England, has no memory of the events and is too frail to attend the trial.

His son Harry, who nurses his father, is representing him in court.