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Emiliano Sala: Agent Willie McKay reveals details of flights which sealed footballer’s deal | UK News

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Football agent Willie McKay has exclusively told Sky News his family arranged and paid for flights linked to the Emiliano Sala deal before his death.

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock was on board two of the flights organised by Mr McKay.

The Bluebirds boss denied last week that he was “good friends” with the football agent, who has found himself at the centre of attention over the events which led to the footballer’s death.

The Argentinian striker and the pilot David Ibbotson were both killed when their light aircraft crashed in the English Channel on 21 January.

Willie McKay has told Sky News his family organised flights in relation to the Emiliano Sala deal
Image:
Willie McKay has told Sky News his family organised flights in relation to the Emiliano Sala deal

Sala, who signed for Cardiff City in a £15m deal, had just become the side’s record signing before the crash.

Cardiff City chairman Mehmet Dalman said in the immediate aftermath of the crash that they did not know who had arranged the flight.

But Mr McKay has provided documentation to Sky News, including a timeline of events extending back to December, which suggests the club knew he had planned the ill-fated journey.

The football agent has said he is not the owner of the plane and claims the Air Accident Investigations Branch accepts this is the case.

It is understood the McKays felt they were doing Sala “a favour” by organising a flight back to Nantes so he could say goodbye to former teammates and sort his personal affairs after signing for Cardiff.

The return leg of the flight on 21 January disappeared from radar just over an hour into the journey.

Sala’s body was later retrieved from the wreckage of the single engine Piper Malibu aircraft which was located on the seabed off the coast of Guernsey.

There has been some disquiet about the number of people who stood to benefit financially from the Sala transfer.

Mark McKay, Willie’s son and a registered agent, was set to receive 10% of the £15m transfer fee.

The McKays, who were acting as brokers on behalf of FC Nantes, were given a mandate to find a Premier League buyer for the striker.

Dave Ibbotson
Image:
Pilot Dave Ibbotson also died in the crash

Sala was the top scorer for the French club.

The McKays first flew a delegation from Cardiff, including Warnock and assistant manager Kevin Blackwell, to Nantes on 5 December 2018.

The initial focus of that trip was to watch a match between FC Nantes and Marseille, and to discuss two Marseille players with the club’s director of football Andoni Zubizaretta.

But Sala scored in a 2-1 victory for Nantes and impressed Warnock.

Warnock was flown – again by the McKay family – to Nantes to meet Sala and his agent Meissa N’Diaye before being flown back to Cardiff on 8 January 2019.

Sala was flown to Cardiff to have a look around the stadium on 14 January.

He returned on 18 January for a medical and to sign a contract.



Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock praised Emiliano Sala's family during a press conference



Sala disappearance ‘the most difficult week’

It had been hoped Sala would be registered in time to play a match for Cardiff against Newcastle that weekend.

It meant Sala was left in Cardiff and Jack McKay, son of Willie and also a Cardiff player, arranged for him to be flown back to Nantes to say goodbye to teammates.

Cardiff City declined to comment when approached about Willie McKay’s version of events.

The football agent has provided Sky News with the following timeline of the events leading to Sala becoming a Cardiff player.

:: 5 December 2018 – The first flight

A flight from Stapleford to Nantes took place the day after Cardiff played West Ham.

Neil Warnock, Kevin Blackwell, Mark McKay and Willie McKay were all on the flight.

It was organised and paid for by Mark McKay.

On arrival they went to meet Marseille’s director of football Andoni Zubizarreta at the French team’s hotel in Nantes.

The meeting was to discuss two Marseille players and also to discuss which players they had who could be available in the January transfer window.

After this meeting they went to a Nantes match early to meet the club’s president.

Nantes won 3 -2 with Sala scoring one and setting up another.

After the match they all returned to the UK.

Neil Warnock and Kevin Blackwell got off at Cardiff before the plane continued to Stapleford to drop off the McKays.

Mehmet Dalman said after the crash that they did not know who had arranged the flight
Image:
Mehmet Dalman said after the crash Cardiff City did not know who had arranged the flight

:: 6 January 2019 – McKays arrange for Warnock to meet Sala

Willie McKay sends an email to Emiliano Sala.

Football agent Meissa N’Diaye calls Willie McKay and agrees for Sala to meet Warnock after Nantes play Montpellier on 8 January.

The McKays arrange a flight with Warnock, Mark McKay, Willie McKay and Cardiff player’s liaison officer Callum Davies on board.

They all go to the match where Sala was said to have played “really well” and “better than he had in the Marseille match”.

Sala and a friend meet Warnock at a hotel in Nantes.

Warnock invites both Mr N’Diaye and Sala over on the following Monday to see Cardiff’s stadium and meet the club’s chief executive Ken Choo to discuss terms.

They all fly back to Cardiff on the morning of 9 Jan 2019, with the flight paid for by Mark McKay.

:: 14 January 2019 – Sala flies to Cardiff

A plane picks up Mr N’Diaye in Paris, then takes him to Nantes to pick up Sala and continue to Cardiff.

Mr N’Diaye goes to the stadium to look around and talk about a contract.

The same day they return to Paris via Nantes – Sala leaves the plane in Nantes, while Mr N’Diaye carries on to Paris.

The plane then returns to Guernsey where it is based.

All paid for by Mark McKay.

:: 18 January 2019 – Sala transfer agreed

Mark McKay liaises with Cardiff’s club secretary Michelle MacDonald, on the instruction of Ken Choo, to gain confirmation that the transfer fee has been agreed.

He informs Ms MacDonald that Sala will be arriving at 9.10am by plane to Cardiff in order to take his medical, in the hope that he can be registered in time for the Newcastle match.

Ms MacDonald asks him whether arrangements have been made for Sala to be picked up at the airport. He tells her he had planned to pick up Sala himself.

Sala arrives at Cardiff Airport around 9.30am and the pair head to Cardiff City’s stadium where they arrive at around 9.50am.

Emiliano Sala signed to Cardiff FC for £15m from Nantes
Image:
Sala signed to Cardiff FC for £15m from Nantes

They are greeted at the stadium by Mr Davies and are joined there by Mr N’Diaye around half an hour later, following his arrival in the UK on a scheduled flight from Paris

The McKays organise a plane for Mr N’Diaye for around 3.30pm so he can get back to Paris for important meetings.

Cardiff City book a hotel and Sala goes there in the early evening after passing his medical and signs the remaining paperwork.

The McKays are staying in the same hotel and, having been joined by Jack McKay following training earlier in the day, all return to the hotel accompanied by Mr Davies.

Messages are then exchanged between Sala, Jack and Willie.

The McKays arrange a flight, which Mr Davies is aware of, on the Friday night to depart on Saturday morning.

The flight leaves at 11.30am on 19 January and Sala returns to Nantes.

The pilot waits two days for Sala to organise his business before departing Nantes for Cardiff on Monday evening so the footballer can be back for training on Tuesday morning.

:: 21 January 2019 – The day of the crash

Sala was due to be met by Mr Davies, who was waiting for him to arrive at the Signature Flight Support building at Cardiff Airport on Monday evening.

Willie McKay claims Cardiff City knew about the flight and who organised it.

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