PLAYERS, clubs and fans from across the world of football have come together to pay tribute to Emiliano Sala, after his death in a plane crash was confirmed.
Dorset Police confirmed last night that a body recovered from aircraft wreckage in the English Channel was that of the Argentine striker, almost three weeks after he vanished en-route to Cardiff from Nantes, France.
The Piper PA-46 Malibu light aircraft that the 28-year-old disappeared in on January 21 was piloted by British father-of-three David Ibbotson, 59, who is yet to be found.
Cardiff City FC, to which Sala had recently signed for a club record £15m fee from French club FC Nantes, have led tributes to Sala – who was flying to South Wales to meet his new teammates when he died.
Club Statement (07/02/19): https://t.co/ib8zJfWzvC
Forever in our thoughts
— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) 7 February 2019
In a statement, the Bluebirds said: "We offer our most heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of Emiliano.
"He and David will forever remain in our thoughts."
The Premier League last night added: "Everyone at the Premier League offers sincere condolences to the family of Emiliano and our thoughts are with the loved ones of David."
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, a fellow Argentinian, tweeted: "Rest in peace, Emiliano. My condolences to his friends and family #PrayForSala".
Enorme tristeza QEDP Emiliano. Mis condolencias a familiares y amigos #PrayForSala //Terribly sad Rest in peace, Emiliano. My condolences to his friends and family #PrayForSala pic.twitter.com/n9aV5CGcI1
— Sergio Kun Aguero (@aguerosergiokun) 8 February 2019
President of Argentina Mauricio Macri – who successfully campaigned for a private search for the plane after an official search was called off – also tweeted his condolences to the Sala family, adding: "We are with you".
Qué noticia dolorosa. Mis condolencias a los familiares, amigos y compañeros de Emiliano Sala en este momento tan duro. Estamos con ustedes.
— Mauricio Macri (@mauriciomacri) February 7, 2019
Arsenal and Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil wrote: "No words to describe how sad this is. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and also to the family of the pilot. #RIPsala".
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) 7 February 2019
Manchester City and France defender Benjamin Mendy tweeted an image of Sala, while his countryman Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint-Germain posted simply: "RIP EMI".
— Benjamin Mendy (@benmendy23) 7 February 2019
— Kylian Mbappé (@KMbappe) 7 February 2019
Everton and Senegal striker Oumar Niasse, who is currently on loan to Cardiff City, tweeted: "RIP @EmilianoSala1 Forever in our thoughts".
— Oumar Niasse (@niassebayeoumar) February 7, 2019
Shipwreck hunting expert David Mearns, who located the aircraft wreckage on Sunday, said his thoughts were with the family and friends of both Sala and Ibbotson.
"Rest in Peace Emiliano. I was glad to provide some small comfort to Romina, Mercedes and the whole Sala family during the past two weeks but my heart goes out to the family and friends of David Ibbotson whose loss is the same," Mr Mearns tweeted.
Rest in Peace Emiliano. I was glad to provide some small comfort to Romina, Mercedes and the whole Sala family during the past two weeks but my heart goes out to the family and friends of David Ibbotson whose loss is the same. "Emiliano Sala" pic.twitter.com/FNLdYjE7M1
— David Mearns (@davidlmearns) 8 February 2019
The plane – registration N264DB – remains in 67 metres of water around 21 miles north of Guernsey, but there are currently no plans to recover its wreckage from the seabed as investigators believe they have gathered enough video footage from the site to assist their probe into the crash.
Nantes have begun legal action against Cardiff over the first £5m installment of Sala's transfer fee, but the Bluebirds first want investigators to clear up lingering questions over the ownership of the aircraft before proceeding with any payments.
The UK Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) said it expects to publish an interim report within the month.