NEWS
08/02/2019 07:34 GMT | Updated 08/02/2019 09:46 GMT

Emiliano Sala: Tributes Pour In For Footballer As His Death Is Confirmed

High-profile football stars, including Diego Maradona and Mesut Ozil‏, have paid tribute to the striker.

Football stars and the president of Argentina have been among those to pay tribute to Emiliano Sala after his body was formally identified after being recovered from underwater wreckage in the English Channel.

Confirmation of the striker’s death has come almost three weeks after his plane crashed en route from Nantes, France to Cardiff, where he was due to start training.

Cardiff City Football Club, to which Sala had recently signed for a club record £15 million, said in a statement: “We offer our most heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of Emiliano.

“He and David will forever remain in our thoughts.”

Sala was identified by the Dorset coroner a day after his body was pulled from the plane, which had been flown by pilot David Ibbotson.

The families of both men have been informed, police said. The body of Ibbotson has not been found.

Argentina’s president Mauricio Macri – who had joined calls for search and rescue to resume looking for the plane after it was called off – also posted on Twitter, sending his condolences to Sala’s family, adding: “We are with you”.

PA Wire/PA Images

Diego Maradona, who was also among those to call on authorities not to give up trying to find the footballer, posted a tribute on Instagram.

He told how many had kept a “light of hope” for the footballer, adding: “I send a big hug to your family and friends”.

Other high-profile football stars also paid tribute, including Arsenal player Mesut Ozil‏, Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy and Paris Saint-Germain footballer Kylian Mbappe.

Ozil tweeted: “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”.

Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero‏, a fellow Argentinian, tweeted: “Rest in peace, Emiliano. My condolences to his friends and family #PrayForSala”.

The French football league has announced a minute’s applause will be held at all Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 games this weekend in memory of Sala.

The LFP said in a statement: “On the occasion of the 24th day of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, a minute of applause will be observed before the kick-off of the meetings.

“Emiliano Sala has left the memory of an endearing man and a hard-working forward in all the clubs where he has evolved.”

The plane carrying Sala vanished last month near to the Channel Islands. It had been transporting the new Cardiff City striker, who was due to begin training for the Welsh side following his transfer from FC Nantes.

It lost contact near the Casquets lighthouse, around eight miles north west of Alderney, at 8.30pm on 21 January.

The plane was found by private investigators after his family and football stars including Lionel Messi raised £325,000 to launch their own search.

Shipwreck hunting expert David Mearns, who led the second search, said his thoughts were with the family and friends of both Sala and Mr Ibbotson.

He 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.”

The aircraft remains 67 metres underwater 21 miles off the coast of Guernsey in the English Channel as poor weather conditions stopped efforts to recover it.