Emiliano Sala: the missing Cardiff City striker who was pushing Neymar in France's goal rankings
The Argentine was travelling on a plane which disappeared over the English Channel
Emiliano Sala was set to take up the mantle as Cardiff City's chief goal-getter as the club aimed to stave off relegation from the Premier League.
Now attention has turned to the Argentine player's welfare after police sources revealed he was on board a small plane which went missing over the English Channel.
Here's all you need to know about the footballer and his career.
How did Sala's transfer to Cardiff come about?
The Welsh club are currently in the relegation zone in the Premier League having scored just 19 goals this season – the second lowest in the division. A new striker was top of manager Neil Warnock's wishlist during the January transfer window. South Americans have proven able to settle in England, with successful examples including Alexis Sanchez and Marcos Rojo at Manchester United and Sergio Aguero at Manchester City.
The French league, where Sala, 28, was playing for Nantes, also offers decent value for money compared to England when it comes to signing strikers. Just ask former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger who frequently returned to his homeland to sign up-and-coming stars at good value.
Cardiff broke their transfer record – the £11 million (Dh52.2m) paid to Sevilla for Chile midfielder Gary Medel – to sign Sala for £15m in a three-and-a-half-year deal.
So Sala had been in good form then?
Yes, he was the fifth-highest scorer in Ligue 1 this season with 12 goals and was averaging one every 115 minutes. He was behind only Neymar of PSG (13 goals), Nicolas Pepe of Lille (13 goals), Edinson Cavani of PSG (14 goals) and Kylian Mbappe of PSG (17 goals) in the rankings. He also has two assists to his name this season.
In October, he became the first Nantes player to score a Ligue 1 hat-trick since 2006.
What about before this season?
Sala arrived at Nantes on a five-year contract in 2015 from Bordeaux for a fee in the region of €1m (Dh4.2m). His first season at Nantes yielded just six goals but he improved thereafter with 15 in the 2016/17 season and 14 in 2017/18.
His professional career began with Bordeaux in 2011 and he was loaned to Caen during the 2014/15 season where he scored five goals. He was born in Santa Fe Province in Argentina and played for a club during his teens with links to Bordeaux.
What was said when he signed for Cardiff?
He was understandably eager to get going at his new club, saying: "I’m very happy to be here. It gives me great pleasure and I can’t wait to start training, meet my new teammates and get down to work.
"For me it feels special [to be the club’s record signing]. I have come here wanting to work and to help my teammates and the club. I can’t wait to get to work straight away and do everything I can."
Club chief executive Ken Choo, added: "It’s obviously been a long process to secure the services of Emiliano, but I’m very pleased that we’re now in a position whereby we can confirm his signature and officially announce him as a Cardiff City player.
"I’d like to thank those involved for making the signing happen, especially Tan Sri Vincent and the rest of the transfer committee. We see Emiliano as a significant acquisition and welcome him wholeheartedly to the capital city of Wales."
Is he big on social media?
He has 36,600 followers on Instagram, where, just 22 hours ago, he posted an image of himself with his Nantes teammates accompanied by the caption "La ultima ciao", which translates to "the last goodbye". He also posted the same image to his 18,000 Twitter followers.
Updated: January 23, 2019 02:05 PM