Emiliano Sala: Neil Warnock says he considered Cardiff future

Warnock on 'most difficult week of career' after Sala disappearance

Cardiff boss Neil Warnock says the disappearance of Emiliano Sala has led to his worst week in football.

A privately funded search for Sala and pilot David Ibbotson continues after the plane carrying the 28-year old disappeared on Monday near Guernsey.

Cardiff return to action at Arsenal in the Premier League on Tuesday.

"I've been in football management now for 40 years and it's by far the most difficult week in my career by an absolute mile," Warnock said.

Sala, who became Cardiff's record recruit when he signed for £15m on 19 January, was travelling from Nantes - where he had been saying goodbye to his former team-mates at the Ligue 1 club - to the Welsh capital.

The plane, piloted by Ibbotson and carrying the 28-year-old Argentine, disappeared on 21 January near Guernsey and a three-day search of the English Channel was called off on Thursday, 24 January.

Guernsey harbourmaster Captain David Barker said it had been a "difficult" decision to call off the search, but explained the chances of survival were "extremely remote" given the time elapsed.

However, a private search for the pair funded by donations from professional footballers and private individuals began on Saturday.

Cardiff City's staff and fans will wear yellow daffodils in the Premier League game at Arsenal to honour the missing striker.

Warnock, who last year celebrated 50 years in football as player and coach, says he considered quitting football altogether under the strain of this week, having met Sala on several occasions as he convinced him to join the Bluebirds.

"From a personal point of view I've never experienced anything like it. It's been amazing with the knock-on with the players in training. It's unknown territory I think. Things like this just don't happen - or you don't think they happen."

And he said he had considered his own future several times in the past week.

"I think probably 24 hours a day in the last week, yeah. It would be true to say, even as I sit here now," he told BBC Sport Wales.

"Because there's more important things, isn't there? It takes something like that to make you realise.

"But I realise I have a job to do here, and it was always a massive job. It's doubly massive now, and that's when you've got to show your leadership and show the lads you're in charge of that we've got another miracle to do here."

Mental health help for players and management

Warnock says he and several of his players have sought help from mental health professionals since the disappearance of Sala.

The 70-year-old also talked about the emotional toll this season has taken on him, given Cardiff were also the first side to face Leicester City following the death of the Foxes' owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

"I don't think we could have played a game on Saturday. But it doesn't feel that much better, as well as we've talked this morning," Warnock said.

"I've had another chat with the lads this morning. Obviously one or two, I think it was only right that they speak to people who might help them in this situation - because you don't realise the trauma it causes a lot of families, whether it's memories brought back of different situations or what have you.

"I don't really know how it's going to be the next 24 hours if I'm honest.

"Even this morning, I spoke to the League Managers' Association, Sue McAllister there - they have a help of that sort, if I want to speak to anybody.

"I sought help. I think you've got to do so."

Tributes to striker Emiliano Sala at Cradiff City Stadium
Fans have laid tributes to Emiliano Sala at Cardiff City Stadium

'I understand the family totally'

Sala's sister Romina and mother Mercedes arrived on Guernsey on Sunday and a family spokesman described them as struggling for answers.

Warnock says he completely understands the Sala family's desire to see the search continue.

"Even now I can't get my head around the situation. When I look at Romina and the family, I think it's such a difficult time," he said.

"I keep looking at my children and thinking about what I would be doing as well.

"If it was my kid, I'd want everybody looking forever. It's such a strange situation, everybody is hoping like the family.

"The whole football fraternity have shown their respect all around the world - as always, things like this bring people together."

Warnock said he hoped Tuesday's game at Arsenal would provide a distraction for his players.

"In an ideal world I don't think I'd like another game at all," he said.

"That's how I feel at the minute. I think football is important but I think it does open up a lot more when a tragedy like this happens.

"I do think from the players' point of view they need some sort of distraction now because it's so much doom and gloom and so sorrowful."

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