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Emiliano Sala: What Could Have Been?

Emiliano Sala

By Abraham Oluwatunmise (@OluwatunmiseAOF)

Since 21st January, 2019, the world has been‘celebrating’ news in the world of football. It is not about the most talked about rivalry between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. It is not about the EPL title race topsy-turvy between Pep’s Manchester City and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

But the football world was gripped by the disappearance of Argentine Nantes striker Emiliano Sala who had just signed for a Wales-based Premier League team, Cardiff City for a club record fee of 15 million British pounds.

Sala signs for Cardiff City
Emiliano Sala signs for Cardiff City. Photo Credit: Buzz

Less than a month ago, the Argentina striker embarked on a journey that would have shined more bright lights on him and his career. This however turned out to be a journey of no return. Sadly and so, the club record fee Cardiff city football club paid to Nantes FC will never been seen in play.

The lanky striker, who was seen as one of the most loyal football player in this current dispensation, could have stayed at Nantes having rejected previous attempts by several top European clubs to lure him at a club he said aided his development.

What is not clear to me, like many other sports writers and football enthusiasts, is the true position of Sala – whether he should be best regarded as former Nantes striker or a Cardiff City player (who never really get to play for the team. I doubt he has a squad number).

Described as gentle, hardworking player with a big smile, Sala has an aura that could have been an interesting piece for the ever-hungry English media. He possessed the tenacity of Ibrahimovic during his hay days.

His stock had risen greatly since his first arrival on French soil following his arrival from his native club Proyecto Crecer to Bordeux B team on a free transfer at the beginning of the 2010/2011 season, commanding a total of €18 million in transfer fee (plus the €17 million Cardiff City paid to get his signature).

Emiliano Sala celebrates a goal. Photo credit: AS Marca

At 28, it is agreed that as a striker he would have had around four years plus to deliver ferociously in front of goal. At least, we could argue that he could have more productive years till his mid-thirties like such players as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Didier Drogba, David Ginola, Robert Pires et al who has toured similar paths moving from French Ligue to the English Premier League.

The greatest highlight of Sala’s career was built in France. More than 53% of his 88 goals were scored playing in the French league. Having represented Nantes in 120 games and scored 42 goals, he attracted Premier League interests.

Cardiff City, a side in danger of losing their Premier League status, saw Sala as the answer to their lack of goals and coughed out the 15 million pounds to break their transfer record.


Full name: Emiliano Raúl Sala Taffarel

Date of Birth: 31 October, 1990

Date of Death: 21 January, 2019

Height: 1.87m (6 ft 2 in) [1]

Place of birth: Cululú , Santa Fe, Argentina

Place of death: English Channel , off Alderney

Playing position: Forward


Youth Career

1994–2005 Club San Martín de Progreso

2005–2009 Proyecto Crecer

2010–2012 Bordeaux

Senior Career

Team Apps (Gls)

2007–2008: Soledad B 6 (1)

2009: Crato 1 (2)

2012–2015: Bordeaux 11 (1)

2012–2013 → Orléans (loan) 37 (19)

2013–2014 → Niort (loan) 37 (18)

2015 → Caen (loan) 13 (5)

2015–2019: Nantes 120 (42)

2019: Cardiff City 0 (0)

Total 225 (88)


As the stats suggests, he was a player who improved consistently and marveled in new challenges. If he played among the elites, he had the potential to blend and challenge himself to be the best.

Having scored 12 goals this term before his untimely death- his last copied from Harry Kane book of headers, he was a potential nightmare for Premier League defenders. Even the likes Of Virgil Van Dirk and Kompany would have had to give a special attention.

Emiliano Sala, for me, will be regarded as the greatest Premier League player that never played in the Premier League.

Emiliano Sala
The Premier League player that never featured in the league. Photo credit: BBC

That’s quite the statement.

However, the striker could have followed in the same path some players did; in the path of those who were at some point little-known but came to the Premier League and achieved greatness.

Petr Čech

The first on the list from a non-French speaking country(like Sala himself, an Argenine), the Czech international arrived at Chelsea in 2004 from Rennes having plied his trade there for two seasons, winning the Gardien d’Or (Ligue 1 goalkeeper of the season) in his final year.

Since his arrival in England 13 years ago, Čech has cultivated a reputation as one of the greatest ‘keepers of his generation; he’s a consistent shot stopper with good command of his area, as well as possessing intelligence and leadership skills.

Despite a terrible head injury in late 2006, Čech’s career success continued. In fact, just six months after the life-threatening incident he became the first goalkeeper to win a Premier League Player of the Month award since Tim Flowers around six years earlier.

In total he’s amassed four Golden Gloves, four league titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, a Europa League and a Champions League title during his time in England continuing to impress today.

 Didier Drogba

Drogba moved to Chelsea for £24million from Olympique Marseille in 2004, which back then was big money, but it proved to be money well spent.

Drogba went on to score 100 league goals for Chelsea, assisting more than 50, while playing a vital role in the Blues winning three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and a Champions League.

Didier Drogba

The Côte d’Ivoire international’s impressive physical attributes allowed him to bully defenders and easily settle into the English game, and he had a remarkable ability to perform in the big games, scoring nine times in finals for Chelsea.

On an individual level, Drogba won two Golden Boots, was twice named on the PFA Team of the Year, and in 2007 finished fourth in the voting for the Ballon d’Or, the highest of anyone of this list.

Robert Pirès

Arriving as a 27-year-old with a career built in France, Pirès’ suitability for the Premier League was initially questioned after his arrival at Arsenal from Marseille in 2000, with suggestions he wasn’t up to the physicality of the English game.

Soon enough, however, Pirès was redefining the role of the winger, playing on his ‘weak’ side and cutting in, and showing that the beautiful game was better played with technical ability over physicality.

Pirès played an important role in two Premier League titles and two FA Cups, as well as featuring in the PFA Team of the Year three years on the trot.

Eden Hazard

The stylish Belgian winger joined Chelsea from Lille in 2012 after impressing in Ligue 1 for a number of years.

Bar a relatively poor 2015-16 season when Mourinho was sacked and Chelsea finished 10th, Hazard has consistently shown he is one of the world’s best, with a number of pros and ex-pros talking him up as contender to be the ‘next best’ after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Eden Hazard

Skilled with both feet at shooting, passing, and dribbling, Hazard can at times be mesmerising – and terrifying, if he’s playing against your club.

Since joining Chelsea he’s bagged two Premier Leagues, a League Cup, and a Europa League, while individually he was named the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2015 and has featured in the PFA Team of the Year four times.

N’Golo Kanté

The beating heart of any team he seems to play in, and the most recent arrival from Ligue 1 featured on the list.

Following his transfer from Caen, Kanté’s importance in Leicester City’s remarkable 2015-16 Premier League title triumph was indisputable. His incredible energy and ability to intercept and tackle, turning defence into attack, set him apart from any other midfielder in the league.

Remarkably, he then joined Chelsea and played a vital role as they won the Premier League too, becoming the first player in history to win the title in consecutive seasons with different clubs.

Touted by Alex Ferguson to be the best player in the league in April 2016, he has featured twice consecutively in the PFA Team of the Year and won the PFA Player’s Player of the Year for the 2016-17 season.

Riyad Marhez

Player of the Year: Riyad Mahrez poses with the BBC African Footballer of the Year award

He moved from little known Le Havre (French second division league side) to Leceister City playing in the Championship at the time. He will later win the 2015/2016 Premier League title with Leceister, the 2016 CAF and BBC Africa Footballer of the year awards among many other accolades.In 2018, he became Manchester City club record signing at £60 million.

(Source: planet football )

What Could Have Been: My Theory

Sala could have single handedly dragged Cardiff City to a respectable finish at maybe 12 position in the league. Having watched Cardiff City this season, their cautious approach to games has denied their forward line.

They tend to rely on long balls over the top which is exactly suitable to how Sala played. He has the technical ability to read and ‘smell’ crosses (in Villas-Boas voice) in dangerous area. Emiliano Sala could have finished with 10 goals in 16 games, bulldozing and terrifying teams with his deadly finishes and great positioning.

And after playing one more season he could have been snapped up by Liverpool or Chelsea as a back-up plan to Firmino or Higuain as the case may be. After an awesome career, at age 32 maybe, he could have decided to go to China. By this time, he would have made his mark and earned a call-up to the Argentina national team and a chance to play alongside Lionel Messi.

Sadly, this theory will never happen

From the moment he sent that WhatsApp voice note on board of the light aircraft that went missing over the English channel on 21st January, he himself knew he had embarked on a journey of no return, never to be seen alive again.

No one will ever find out what he could have become – whether a great or a flop – had he played in the Cardiff City jersey in the English Premier League

No one.

Author: For The Goal

You can keep in touch with us on most social media platforms @iamforthegoal

For The Goal
You can keep in touch with us on most social media platforms @iamforthegoal

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