Exclusive: Cardiff are trying to throw me under bus, says agent who brokered Emiliano Sala move from Nantes

Ben Rumsby
Emiliano Sala and Willie McKay - Cardiff City are trying to throw me under the bus, says agent who brokered Emiliano Sala move from Nantes

A livid Willie McKay on Monday accused Cardiff City of “trying to throw me under the bus” as the bitter recriminations over the tragic transfer of Emiliano Sala intensified. 

The man who brokered Sala’s move to the Welsh club lashed out at their owner, chairman and chief executive, claiming they were attempting to shift blame for the striker’s death in a plane crash on to “an easy target”.

As exclusively revealed by Telegraph Sport, Cardiff are ready to launch a negligence claim against Nantes if an official report finds the pilot of the plane did not have the correct licence.

They are also prepared to sue McKay personally over his self-confessed bid to “create an interest” in the 28-year-old in what they consider to be potential price inflation.

And they have refused to rule out calling for the Football Association, Fifa and even the police to investigate the £15 million deal, on which they have frozen payments.

With Sala’s cousin, Martin Gatti, claiming at the weekend that the striker “was killed”, and his ex-girlfriend, Berenice Schkair, appearing to restate an earlier call for the authorities to “investigate the football mafia” over his death, the fallout over his plane crash showed no sign of abating.

McKay, who arranged the flight, came out fighting on Monday, insisting his “conscience was clear” and revealing he was “livid” over his treatment.

Accusing Cardiff owner Vincent Tan, chairman Mehmet Dalman and chief executive Ken Choo of “trying to throw me under the bus”, he told Telegraph Sport: “Cardiff City have shown no class at all.”

McKay had previously angered the club after releasing an email he had sent to Sala admitting planting “misleading” stories in the media about interest in him from teams including Everton and West Ham United.

He went further on Monday by providing Telegraph Sport with the contract between Nantes and his agent son, Mark, which confirmed the latter was due 10 per cent of any transfer fee – around £1.5 million.

Sala's death has exposed a system in which agents create an interest in players that may, otherwise, not exist Credit: PA

The document also stipulates that McKay Jnr must “make every effort” to ensure the French club receive the full amount of that fee “as soon as possible”.

McKay confirmed, too, that he had spoken to the Air Accidents Investigations Branch about Sala’s fatal journey on Jan 21 and had produced a timeline of all previous private-jet trips arranged as part of the transfer.

This timeline, which he shared with Telegraph Sport, shows his son had organised and paid for two earlier flights to Nantes for Cardiff manager Neil Warnock to watch the striker and two between the cities for the player himself, the first for contract talks and the second for his medical.

McKay said: “The only flight everybody is talking about is the one that crashed, right? Cardiff knew everything [about every flight]. When are they going to come out and tell the truth?”

McKay confirmed none of the four previous journeys used the same Piper Malibu plane or pilot drafted in to take Sala back to Nantes to say his farewells before returning him to the Welsh capital.

The Scot has repeatedly stressed he neither owns the doomed plane nor had any input into the selection of it or the pilot, Dave Ibbotson. Instead, he says, he simply asked one of his regular pilots, Dave Henderson, to make all the necessary arrangements.

He claimed on Monday he still not to know who owned the plane or whether Ibbotson – who had £23,400 in County Court Judgments against him – was licensed to make a commercial flight or had been paid anything more than expenses.

McKay said he routinely funded the flights and hotels of players he was contracted to sell – and even managers he was trying to sell them to – listing the practice among “gambles” he took in the hope of securing a lucrative payday.

He denied Sala had been overpriced, claiming Nantes were only due half his transfer fee because of a sell-on clause and that £15 million actually “wasn’t a good deal” for the French club.

Asked why he was even involved in that deal given he was declared bankrupt in 2015 and no longer held an intermediaries licence, McKay declared it was down to “nepotism” and to help “open some doors” for his agent son.

He also revealed he had attended Sala’s funeral in Argentina on Saturday, taking the same flight as Choo, and that he met the player’s brother while there.

He added: “I met Emiliano the same amount of times as they [Cardiff officials] met him. I organised his flight. I tried to help him. They never tried to help him.

“They booked him one room at the St David’s Hotel [in Cardiff]. That’s all they’ve done for him. And they’re trying to throw me under the bus.”

Meanwhile, the AAIB confirmed on Monday its interim report into Sala’s plane crash would not be ready this week but that a publication date could be confirmed by Friday.