‘No words to describe how sad this is’: Football world reacts to confirmation of Sala’s death

‘No words to describe how sad this is’: Football world reacts to confirmation of Sala’s death
The football world has reacted with an outpouring of grief following confirmation that the body of missing Cardiff City player Emiliano Sala had been identified after being recovered from plane wreckage in the English Channel.

Police confirmed that Sala’s body had been identified on Thursday night, after it was taken from wreckage on the seabed.

Sala, 28, and plane pilot Dave Ibbotson went missing while traveling from Nantes, France, to Wales on January 21. The pilot’s body has yet to be found.

The confirmation of Sala’s death followed an anguished search which was at first officially abandoned before being resumed after a private funding campaign.

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While the world of football had been braced for the worst since the news of the disappearance first broke, formal identification of the Argentinian striker’s body was met with emotional tributes from players and teams on social media.

France and Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe paid his respects, writing “RIP EMI.”

Arsenal’s German midfield star Mesut Ozil posted a picture of Sala with the message: “No words to describe how sad this is. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and also to the family of the pilot.”

England’s all-time top scorer Wayne Rooney, who now plays in the US with DC United, also shared a black-and-white picture of the Argentine, writing: “Rest in peace Emiliano Sala. Thoughts are with friends and family.”

Argentina striker Sergio Aguero, of Manchester City, wrote: “Rest in peace, Emiliano. My condolences to his friends and family.”

Sala’s plane went down while he was on his way from Nantes to join new club Cardiff City, whom he had signed for in a record £15 million (US$19.4 million) deal.

The player had been in France to bid farewell to his former Nantes teammates, having spent three-and-a-half seasons at the club, during which he scored 42 Ligue 1 goals.  

Both Cardiff and Nantes paid tribute on learning the news that the striker had been confirmed dead.

The Welsh club issued a statement saying: “We offer our most heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of Emiliano. He and David will forever remain in our thoughts. #CityAsOne”

Nantes also issued a statement, with the message: “We will never forget you, Emi.” 

The French club also said they would be retiring the number 9 shirt worn by the Argentinian forward. 

A number of Sala’s teammates from Cardiff and Nantes paid their respects, including Bluebirds defender Sol Bamba, who tragically will never get to play alongside the striker.

Earlier this week, Sala’s sister, Romina, had posted a heart-wrenching image of the player’s dog pining for him at the window.

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David Mearns, the man leading the private search which had located the wreckage, said he was pleased he could at least bring some closure to the family.

Attempts to recover the wreckage and find Ibbotson’s body, which are being conducted with the Air Accidents Investigations Branch (AAIB), were called off after conditions deteriorated.

Mearns told the BBC that finding Ibbotson's body would prove challenging.

"I've been involved in operations when people were lost and the bodies were found days and weeks after, not far from where they were lost.

"But this is a pretty dynamic place. It's got fairly strong currents, it's not that deep water, you've got a lot of fishing activity, a lot of scallop dredgers moving in and out of the location.

"You cannot expect that the body is going to be in that location for an extended period of time.”

Sala's family said they were grateful for the outpouring of support, but were hopeful that Ibbotson's body would yet be found. 

"We would like to thank you for all your signs of affection and support in what is the most painful time of our lives.

"Seeing the whole world mobilized to support us in our research has been an infinitely precious help. Thanks to you, we are now able to mourn our son, our brother.

"On this Friday morning, our thoughts go to David Ibbotson and his family, hoping that the authorities will do their best to find him."

Meanwhile, there have been reports that Nantes have demanded the first installment of the payment for Sala from Cardiff,  after the Welsh club were said to have withheld initial payment while the investigation was underway.  

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A Cardiff representative has said the club will cover the transfer cost, the BBC reports.