Cardiff City have contacted other Premier League clubs in an attempt to establish whether there may be grounds to avoid paying the full £15million transfer fee being demanded by Nantes for Emiliano Sala, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Letters sent in the past few days by lawyers acting for the club request help in ‘fighting off Nantes’ legal claim’, according to one source. They ask clubs for assistance in ‘sharing your knowledge of Sala as a player’.

The correspondence from a Cardiff law firm describes Sala as ‘the player that Cardiff tried to sign’, phrasing which makes it clear that the club believe they may not have to pay all — or indeed any — of the record transfer fee.

Details of the letters — which Cardiff on Saturday confirmed were sent — emerged as manager Neil Warnock and chief executive Ken Choo arrived in Argentina for the player’s wake and funeral.

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that Cardiff’s decision to approach Premier League clubs publicly linked with Sala is partly motivated by transfer broker Willie McKay’s admission in an email to the striker that he had sought to artificially inflate the price. McKay told Sala he had told the media of rival interest ‘just to stimulate interest in you’.

The club are seeking to establish whether there was indeed any interest at all from other clubs. McKay’s email to Sala listed Everton and West Ham as clubs he had linked the player to, though Crystal Palace, Fulham, Burnley and Wolves were also reported to be keen.

The Mail on Sunday revealed two weeks ago that one club had been publicly linked to Sala simply on the basis of a text message being sent signalling the player’s availability.

A second club was bemused to receive the letter from Cardiff’s lawyers suggesting they had also been linked. ‘This simply isn’t true in our case,’ said a source. ‘We never had an interest in Sala. We didn’t even watch him play.’

But Sala is by no means the first player to have been transferred after being artificially linked with other clubs. This is one of the oldest tricks in the wheeler-dealer world of player acquisition. It is difficult to see how Cardiff can possibly cite this practice to avoid paying the first £5m tranche of the fee they had agreed with Nantes for the player.

Cardiff have said they will ‘do the right thing’ but have indicated they ‘first want full facts disclosed about what happened and the involvement of agents with Nantes in the deal’.

The number of brokers involved in the deal is also understood to have concerned them. Some at the top of the club only became aware of the number taking a cut after The Mail on Sunday report which listed them. Cardiff want to establish what part each of those individuals played.

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