Emiliano Sala tributes pour in after body recovered from plane wreckage

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Evening Standard

Tributes have poured in for footballer Emiliano Sala after his body was recovered from the wreckage of a plane that crashed in the English Channel.

Fellow football stars sent messages of support after the 28-year-old’s body was identified almost three weeks after his plane crashed en route from Nantes, France, to Cardiff.

Mauricio Macri, president of the footballer’s native Argentina, also paid tribute. He said: “What painful news. My condolences to Emiliano Sala’s family, friends and colleagues at this very hard time. We’re with you.”

The plane’s pilot, David Ibbotson, has still not been found.

Cardiff City, the club which Sala had recently signed to for a club record fee of £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.”

Cardiff City players paid tribute to Sala on Twitter as well. Centre back Sol Bamba posted a black and white photo of Sala alongside the caption: “Tragic… May you rest in peace.”

Full back Joe Bennett wrote: “RIP Emiliano.” Everton striker Oumar Niasse, who is currently on loan to Cardiff, added: “RIP @EmilianoSala1 Forever in our thoughts”.

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

Arsenal player 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.”

Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy also tweeted a black and white image of Sala, while Paris Saint-Germain footballer Kylian Mbappe wrote simply: “RIP EMI”.

Manchester United, Liverpool and Real Madrid have also paid tribute.

FIFA said in a statement “the whole football community” was “deeply saddened”.

“FIFA and its president Gianni Infantino would like to extend their sincerest condolences to his friends and family. Our thoughts are also with the family of pilot David Ibbotson,” the organisation said.

The light aircraft Sala was travelling in lost contact with air traffic control over the Channel, north of Guernsey, on January 21.

Pilot Mr Ibbotson’s wife Nora is still desperately waiting for news at her home near Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire.

A relative told the Daily Mail: “All we want is for David’s body to be found so we can lay him to rest properly, as he deserves, and pay our respects.

“Not knowing where he is and if his body has been found or maybe never will be is the worst thing ever.”

In a statement last night, Dorset Police said: “The body brought to Portland Port today has been formally identified by HM Coroner for Dorset as that of professional footballer Emiliano Sala.

“The families of Mr Sala and the pilot David Ibbotson have been updated with this news and will continue to be supported by specially-trained family liaison officers.

“Our thoughts remain with them at this difficult time.

“HM Coroner will continue to investigate the circumstances of this death supported by Dorset Police.”