FOOTBALL agent Willie McKay yesterday confirmed he arranged the flight to take Emiliano Sala from Nantes to Cardiff but said he had no involvement in selecting the plane or pilot.
Guernsey Police have called off the search for Cardiff’s new £15 million signing Sala and pilot David Ibbotson after their plane disappeared over the English Channel on Monday evening.
Mr McKay’s son, Mark, was the agent acting for Nantes in a move which made 28-year-old Sala a club-record transfer for Cardiff.
His other son, Jack, who plays for Cardiff, exchanged a series of text messages with Sala, suggesting a private flight from Cardiff to Nantes, and then back to south Wales two days later.
Mr McKay senior, who has released those messages, said a commercial flight to the French city would have involved going via Amsterdam.
After signing for Cardiff, Sala returned to Nantes to collect his belongings and say goodbye to team-mates and staff of the French Ligue 1 club before heading back to the UK.
Mr McKay, who is originally from Glasgow, has met with Sala’s family. He said Cardiff were also aware of the travel arrangements for the missing player.
In a statement, Monaco-based Mr McKay said: “In regards to the booking of the flight, we contacted David Henderson who has flown us and many of our players all over Europe on countless occasions.
“We had no involvement in selecting a plane or a pilot and wish to make clear we do not own the plane that Emiliano flew on.
“As the text messages show: Emiliano was not asked for payment for the flight.
“My sons, Mark, Jack and I and the rest of the McKay family would like to offer our sincere support for the Sala family and support their calls for the search to continue.”
In the messages, Sala asks how much the flights will cost. He is told by Jack McKay that they will cost him nothing.
“He (Willie McKay) said if you help me to score goals it’s nothing,” Jack McKay wrote in a message on Friday, January 18.
Sala was pleased with the arrangements and contacted Jack McKay on Sunday, January 20 to ask if he could bring his luggage on the plane, and was told that he could.
Mr McKay has been described as one of the most successful agents in football. He has represented players including Scottish footballers James McFadden and Ross McCormack.
Argentina’s president Mauricio Macri has told his foreign minister to issue formal requests to Britain and France for search efforts to be resumed. A GoFundMe page to raise funds for the resumption of the search have topped £150,000, with the Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan amongst the donors.
Cardiff’s staff and supporters, meanwhile, will wear yellow daffodils at Arsenal on Tuesday in a mark of respect for Sala, and the club captains will place floral tributes at the ground.