Cardiff City could launch a negligence claim against Nantes as soon as next week if an official report finds Emiliano Sala was flown to his death by a pilot who did not have the correct licence, according to Britain’s Sunday Telegraph.
Premier League side Cardiff already find themselves involved in a legal dispute with French side Nantes over whether they are contractually obliged to pay a transfer fee for the Argentinian striker, who died without playing a game for the Welsh side.
Sala had signed for Cardiff for a club record £15 million ($19 million) and was flying to his new team from former side Nantes in France when his plane went missing over the Channel on January 21.
The wreckage was located on the seabed. Sala’s body was recovered but pilot David Ibbotson is still missing. The aircraft remains under the sea.
Details of how Sala died, and who was responsible, could be clarified in the coming days by Britain’s Air Accidents Investigations Bureau, which had previously said it intended to publish an interim report into the crash within a month of it occurring.
The Telegraph said an internal Cardiff inquiry had found no evidence that Ibbotson held the licence necessary to carry passengers on a commercial basis.
If the AAIB report upholds this view, it may constitute the basis for a claim of negligence against whoever recruited Ibbotson as the pilot for Sala’s flight.
Agents Willie and Mark McKay have said they arranged Sala’s flight but did not select the plane or pilot. The pair had been working for Nantes.
A successful negligence claim against Nantes would reduce the transfer fee that Cardiff owed the French club.
And that payment could decrease further if Cardiff can show that Sala’s transfer was incomplete at the time of his death because he had not yet been registered to play in the Premier League.
“We believe that the player was not registered with the Premier League,” Cardiff chairman Mehmet Dalman told the Telegraph.
Sala was buried in his hometown of Progreso in Argentina on Saturday, with Cardiff manager Neil Warnock and club executive Ken Choo among the mourners.
“It was important for us to come and pay the respect to the family,” Warnock told AFP. “People tell me: ‘He never played for you,’ but he was my player, I signed him, we had two or three conversations and he told me he would score the goals to keep Cardiff in the Premier League.”