Emiliano Sala. Never heard of him? Well, we’ve got you covered.
As we reach the halfway point of this January transfer window, things are starting to heat up. Especially in Cardiff where fans will be hoping for fewer rants about Brexit and players who have decided not to sign for them.
This looks to be the case with Sala but as usual in the January transfer window, this move has taken another turn.
On Wednesday it was reported by Sky Sports that Cardiff were close to sealing a deal with the Nantes for the striker. A deal in the region of £18m which would break their current record transfer fee of £11m for Gary Medel in 2013.
This time around, it’s not a midfielder they’re after but a striker. Cardiff haven’t had a talisman throughout the season, but surprisingly to most, they have been able to climb out of the bottom three. They are sitting in 17th, but just a point above the relegation zone, and so reinforcements will be needed if they want to stay up.
Enter 28-year-old Emiliano Sala. An Argentine striker who has scored 12 Ligue 1 goals in 19 games this season.
Who is Emiliano Sala?
Despite being born in the Province of Santa Fe in Argentina, Sala has spent his entire footballing career in France.
Sala began his career at Bordeaux but couldn’t quite make a name for himself in the south of France. In three years, he made just 13 first team appearances for the club, spending the majority of that time out on loan.
His first two loan spells saw him impress massively in the third and second tiers of French football. Playing 37 games for both Orleans and Niort, he had very respectable returns, scoring 19 at Orleans and 18 at Niort. Following this, he played the first half of the 2014/15 season at Bordeaux but was again loaned out in January of that year to Caen.
Evidently, Bordeaux wasn’t the club for Sala, so he moved to Nantes that summer. Since then, with consistent football, he’s been able to produce consistent numbers.
He has netted 24 Ligue 1 goals in the previous two seasons, 12 in each campaign, which is a tally he has already matched this season despite only being at the halfway mark. Sitting only behind Kylian Mbappe and Nicolas Pepe in this season’s scoring charts has made Sala an attractive target for Cardiff.
It’s also important to note that in November he had more goals than countrymen Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Mauro Icardi.
Emiliano Sala’s playing style
Standing at 6ft 2in many people would expect Sala to be prolific in the air. And while this may be the case, he as he has proven this season that he is as much of a threat on the ground as in the air with just four of this season’s goals coming from headers.
As well as being good in the air, he has also shown other aspects to his game which could see him be an asset to a Premier League club like Cardiff.
Mostly, this has been in the variety of goals he has been able to score. He’s able to head the ball, score from the spot and pick up space intelligently to set himself up with a good chance to get a shot off.
He is very much a poacher of sorts, which is evident as 11 of his 12 goals have come from inside the penalty area and six-yard box. He’s also shown that he doesn’t need too much time to get a shot off as he has been able to finish a few rebounds.
Not only that, but with flying wingers like Junior Hoilett, Josh Murphy and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Sala could help bring them into the game. On average Sala has created 1.3 chances per game this season. Knowing this, moving their wingers closer to Sala, and deploying him as a target man, this could help them sustain stronger attacks as the season goes on.
The transfer saga thickens
Cardiff City’s interest in Sala was confirmed in December when Warnock said “He (Sala) has scored some good goals this year.
“We all know what we need. It’s no good looking for a certain type of player because they’ve got to be able to work hard as well as put the ball in the net.”
Since then, the story of Sala to Cardiff has been almost rollercoaster-like with twists and turns at the most unexpected of times.
Earlier this week, the deal seemed to be off, until Sky Sports reporter Kaveh Solhekol released this tweet yesterday:
Emiliano Sala has today told Nantes he wants to leave and sign for Cardiff City. Talks yesterday with Cardiff manager Neil Warnock and chief executive Ken Choo and agents Meissa N’Diaye & Mark McKay. Cardiff now club he wants to join.
— Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) January 15, 2019
Warnock is believed to have flown out to France on Monday to discuss the move with Sala and with just 18 months left on his current Nantes contract, that could see him opt to move to the Premier League.
However, in another turn, in spite of the reports seen in the tweets above, Sala turned out for Nantes on Wednesday in the club’s 1-0 defeat to Nimes.
— FC Nantes (@FCNantes) January 16, 2019
As a result, Cardiff City fans expressed their disbelief before the match that Sala was set to play a part in the match at the Stade des Costieres…
— The Canton Chat (@CantonChat) January 16, 2019
— Camron George🏴 (@GeorgeCamron) January 16, 2019
@reluctantnicko What’s going on here en
— John McAllister (@john_mcal) January 16, 2019
And, on Friday evening, Sky Sports reported the striker has completed a medical at Cardiff ahead of his proposed move. Though it is too soon for Sala to play against Newcastle United on Saturday, it will still be a good deal for the Bluebirds.
Bringing a new addition to the squad, and one in such good form, may be enough to help them stay in the Premier League come the end of the season.
However, in their pursuit for new additions it’s paramount they find a balance, unlike the last time they were in the Premier League.
So, lets all strap ourselves in and watch how this one pans out.