Emiliano Sala felt under ‘a lot of pressure’ to play in the Premier League, inquest hears

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Footballer Emiliano Sala felt under “a lot of pressure” to achieve his dream of playing on one of the world’s most important leagues, an inquest has heard.

The 28-year-old Argentine striker died alongside pilot David Ibbotson, 59, when the single-engine Piper Malibu aircraft they were travelling in from Nantes to the Welsh capital crashed in January 2019.

Sala’s body was retrieved from the Channel in February 2019, while the pilot’s body has never been found.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Ligue 1 - FC Nantes v AS Saint-Etienne - The Stade de la Beaujoire - Louis Fonteneau, Nantes, France - January 30, 2019  General view of tributes left outside the stadium for Emiliano Sala  REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

Read more: Who was Emiliano Sala, how did he die and what has happened since?

Coroner Rachel Griffin opened the inquest at Bournemouth Town Hall telling the jury “nobody is on trial here”.

She added: “There’s no question of attributing blame. The inquest is simply a way of establishing facts about the death.”

The footballer’s young brother Dario listened as a statement from their mother, Mercedes Taffarel, was read to the inquest.

‘Our pain will never go away – we carry it with us all the time’

“The plane crash changed our lives. It’s the worst thing that could have happened to us. Our family is terribly affected,” Ms Taffarel’s statement said.

“As a family, we did everything we could to find Emi and the pilot. Emi’s loss was a complete shock.

“Our pain will never go away, we carry it with us all the time. We remember him with all the love he deserves. All we ask for is justice. We want no stone unturned to find out what happened.”

Football Soccer - FC Nantes v OGC Nice - France Ligue 1 - La Beaujoire Stadium, Nantes, France - 18/03/2017 - Nantes' Emiliano Sala in action. Picture taken March 18, 2017.  REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
‘In Nantes they liked him very much, he was an idol’

Read more: Businessman David Henderson, who organised fatal flight for footballer, jailed for 18 months

She spoke about how her son had shone during trials at a regional club in Argentina with links to Ligue 1 side Bordeaux, before going on to make the move to France and a career as a professional player.

He played and scored for Bordeaux before transferring to Nantes where more goals followed.

“In Nantes, they liked him very much, he was an idol,” the player’s mother said.

“He started as the top scorer in the French league above very famous players like Neymar which made me feel very proud because he had worked very hard every day to achieve that.”

Undated handout file photo issued by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch of the Piper Malibu aircraft, N264DB, on the ground at Nantes Airport, France, prior to the flight which crashed into the Channel killing footballer Emiliano Sala. David Henderson, the businessman who organised the flight that crashed, killing footballer Emiliano Sala, has been found guilty at Cardiff Crown Court of endangering the safety of an aircraft. Issue date: Thursday October 28, 2021.
The plane Emiliano Sala was in when it crashed

In December 2018 an offer came to move to Cardiff City and play in the Premier League.

‘He was a little afraid’ and ‘Cardiff had put a lot of pressure on him’

His mother’s statement continued: “It’s true to say that Emi was very happy when he accepted the move, although he was a little afraid he felt it was the right time to move clubs and to another league.

“It seemed to him that the Nantes management also pushed his move because they were going through some financial problems. Emi’s transfer was the most expensive in the history of the club.

“Cardiff had put a lot of pressure on him to complete the sale. Nantes asked for more money and he was in the middle.”

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Shutterstock (10070387b)
Emiliano Sala
The 28-year-old striker was on his way to Cardiff when the plane crashed. File pic: Shutterstock

Read more: Nantes retire No 9 Sala shirt in honour of ‘legend’ Emiliano Sala

During the transfer from Nantes to Cardiff City, the player communicated “every day” via text and video calls with his family back home in Argentina.

“Emi felt he was achieving his dream,” his mother’s statement continued.

“After so many years of effort, he had finally reached one of the most important leagues in the world, where he had always desired to play.”

The inquest continues and is scheduled to last five weeks.

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