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Emiliano Sala's family speak of their 'infinite sadness' as his body is recovered from plane wreckage

Credit: Mark Kerton/PA Wire/PA Images

The family of Emiliano Sala have expressed their "infinite sadness" after a body recovered from plane wreckage in the English Channel was confirmed as the footballer.

The striker, who had been signed to Cardiff City but was yet to play a match, has been at the centre of an extensive search since the plane he was travelling in last contact with air traffic control. The body of pilot David Ibbotson has not been found.

The body of pilot David Ibbotson has not been found. Credit: PA Images

In a statement, the Sala family said: "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 mobilised 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."

The family added that their thoughts "go out to David Ibbotson and his family, hoping that the authorities will do their best to find him".

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The wreckage of the plane in the English Channel. Credit: AAIB

The Piper Malibu N264DB plane en route from Nantes to Cardiff lost contact with air traffic control over the Channel, north of Guernsey, on Monday January 21.

An initial search and rescue operation failed to locate the plane but it was later discovered by the Air Accident Investigation Branch and privately funded search teams.

Sala had only completed the details of his transfer to Cardiff City from FC Nantes, for a club record £15 million, two days before the crash.

Marine expert David Mearns, who led the privately funded search for the wreckage of the plane, tweeted a tribute to Sala.

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Cardiff City Football Club said Emiliano Sala will remain forever in the thoughts of Cardiff City.

"We offer our most heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of Emiliano.

"He and David will remain forever in our thoughts".

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock told a press conference on Friday morning that Sala's death was "a loss to everyone in football".

"He was a Neil Warnock type of player really. He was, I always thought, that he was a scruffy type of player that for me would score 10-15 goals every year at the top level.

"But not just that, work hard as a team player. He just fit the criteria really, for what I look for in a player. Somebody that can do something special but at the same time, is a very good lad. He were a really nice lad".

FC Nantes changed the landing page of their website to a photograph of Sala with the words 'Noue ne t'oublierons jamais, Emi!' which translates as "We will never forget you, Em!".

Diego Maradona, who called on authorities not to give up trying to find the footballer, paid tribute to Sala on Instagram.

Alongside a picture of a Cardiff City match-day programme featuring Sala, the Argentine World Cup winner said: "I am very sorry for this sad news. Many of us kept a light of hope for you, Emiliano. I send a big hug to your family and friends."

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero, a fellow Argentinian, has also paid tribute.

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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".

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. He sent his condolences to Sala's family, adding: "We are with you".

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