A BRAZILIAN volleyball star has claimed she had a secret relationship with footballer Emiliano Sala before his tragic plane crash.
Luiza Ungerer, 31, who plays for French side Beziers Angels, said she met the 28-year-old striker when they both played in France, The Sun reports.
She said she last saw him on her birthday on January 14 - a week before he died when the plane he was in crashed in the English Channel.
Luiza, a native of Rio de Janeiro who has been in France for eight years, claims the pair first started messaging on social media in September 2017 and said it was his "dream" to play in the Premier League.
She said he was "very happy" having signed for Cardiff from Nantes for a record $27 million fee and couldn't wait to play in the "best competition in the world".
Ungerer added that she spoke to Sala on the day of his disappearance but did not want to reveal what they discussed.
But after hearing the heartbreaking news that his body had been found, she wrote online: "Like you always said to me: 'Thank you for being how you are.' I'm going to love you forever!"
She told Brazilian news outlet Globo: "He said that he had gone to see Cardiff and that the deal was closed, he was going to play there.
"It made me really glad because he was very happy. It was his dream, to play in the Premier League, the best competition in the world."
Ungerer added: "What I wanted was for him to come back. There are lots of people asking me horrible things about the accident. It's really difficult.
"In the street, everybody recognised him, they came to speak to him and take a photo with him. I used to say, 'Who the hell told you to score so many goals?'
"It was surprising for him because he's a simple person and he didn't understand it. He has a pure heart, he has no bad intentions, he was even naive at times."
Speaking about his disappearance, she said: "I always had hope after his disappearance, because in those hours that's what you have to have.
"Until the moment they announced they had found a body, I had hope.
"There was a lot of anguish, not knowing where the plane was, not knowing what was going to happen, with the searches which shouldn't have stopped. It was all anguish."
Ungerer added: "Now, I have to be happy for myself and for him. I'm going to try and live for myself and for him.
"I'm going to try and be as happy as possible because that's what he wants."
GRISLY DETAILS OF SALA'S DEATH
Sala died from head injuries and had to be identified by his fingerprints when the plane he was travelling on crashed into the ocean, an inquest has heard.
The Cardiff City star was pulled from the wreckage after the plane came down near Alderney, near Guernsey, on January 21.
An inquest opened and adjourned into his death in Dorset heard how a post-mortem confirmed Sala died from "head and trunk" injuries.
The hearing was told he had to be identified using his fingerprints after investigators discovered his body on the seabed of the English Channel on February 4.
In English law, inquests are held to examine sudden or unexplained deaths. They set out to determine the identity of the deceased, the place and time of death as well as how the deceased came by their death, but they do not apportion blame. The inquest was adjourned until November 6 for a pre-inquest review.
A full report by the Air Accident Investigation Branch will not be published for six to 12 months, but an interim report is due within a fortnight.
Ian Parry, a senior coroner's officer for Dorset, said: "Mr Sala was identified on the 7th February by means of fingerprint evidence analyses by fingerprint expert Christopher Bradbury.
"A post mortem was carried out after the body was taken to Holly Tree Lodge mortuary.
"Home office pathologist Mr Purdue gave the cause of death as head and trunk injuries."
This article first appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission