Nantes FC have penned down a touching tribute to Emiliano Sala after his body was recovered from the English Channel and formally identified.
News of the striker’s death came almost three weeks after his plane crashed en route from Nantes, France, to Cardiff.
Sala had only completed the details of his transfer to Cardiff from Nantes – for a club record £15 million – two days before the crash.
Diego Maradona, who was 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”.
Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, a fellow Argentinian, tweeted: “Rest in peace, Emiliano. My condolences to his friends and family #PrayForSala”, while former Nantes team-mate Gabriel Boschilia said on Instagram it had been a pleasure to play alongside Sala.
The light aircraft was piloted by David Ibbotson, who has not been found.
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. #RIPsala”.
Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy tweeted an image of Sala, while Paris Saint-Germain footballer Kylian Mbappe wrote simply: “RIP EMI”.
Football clubs across the world also shared messages of tribute, with Barcelona tweeting: “Rest in peace”, while Independiente, the Argentine club Sala supported, posted words of solidarity for the player’s family and friends.
UEFA said: “A sad day. The thoughts and sincere condolences of UEFA and the whole European football family are with the friends and family of Emiliano Sala this morning.”
Argentina’s president Mauricio Macri – who had joined calls for the search for the plane to be resumed after it was called off – also posted on Twitter, sending his condolences to Sala’s family, adding: “We are with you”.
FIFA echoed UEFA’s statement, and said: “FIFA and the whole football community are deeply saddened about the death of Emiliano Sala. 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 French football league announced that 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.”