The French Civil Aviation Authority has said Cardiff City’s record £18 million signing Emiliano Sala was aboard a small passenger plane that went missing off the coast of the island of Guernsey.
“We can confirm Emiliano Sala was on board,” a spokesman for the French Civil Aviation Authority said on Tuesday.
Both French and British maritime authorities spent the day searching the English Channel for the plane. They will resume their efforts upon sunrise on Wednesday, according to a Guernsey police statement.
“During the course of the 15-hour search, which used multiple air and sea assets from the Channel Islands, UK and France, a number of floating objects have been seen in the water. We have been unable to confirm whether any of these are from the missing aircraft,” the statement read.
“We have found no signs of those on board. If they did land on the water, the chances of survival are at this stage, unfortunately, slim.”
Chief Officer of Channel Island Air Search, John Fitzgerald, told ESPN FC that the objects found on the water could not be confirmed as parts of the plane.
“Debris was seen from the aircraft west of Alderney and the lifeboat has been sent to check this out, but at the moment we can’t confirm that these are parts from the aircraft until they have been collected and identified,” Fitzgerald said.
Cardiff called off training upon hearing the news on Tuesday and club CEO Ken Choo said: “We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing. We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team.
“Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation.
“All of us at Cardiff City FC would like to thank our fans, and the entire footballing family for their support at this difficult time.
“We continue to pray for positive news.”
Guernsey police say the flight left Monday evening from Nantes en route to Wales with two people aboard. The French regional maritime authority sent a search helicopter.
The Guernsey Coastguard received an alert shortly after 8 p.m. GMT on Monday that the plane had lost contact with Jersey Air Traffic Control after requesting to descend while passing Guernsey. The search was postponed around 2.30 a.m. GMT on Tuesday morning because of difficult conditions but resumed later that day until being postponed by darkness.
— Emiliano Sala (@EmilianoSala1) 21 January 2019
Nantes’ French Cup last-32 game against Entente Sannois-Saint Gratien, originally set for Wednesday, was postponed until Sunday. Nantes is Sala’s former club.
“I’m thinking of his friends, his family. I’m still hopeful, he’s a fighter. It’s not over, he’s perhaps somewhere. While waiting for news that we hope will be positive, we’re very touched by all the support we have received since this morning,” Nantes president Waldemar Kita said.
The club joined the call for fans to go to the Place Royale in Nantes to put a yellow tulip at the foot of the fountain there as a mark of support.
Sala, 28, tweeted his farewell to Nantes on Monday, along with a picture with his former colleagues.
Sala first arrived in France in 2010 when his potential was spotted by Bordeaux, who had him on their books for five years. He spent three spells out on loan, including half a season at Caen that convinced Nantes to sign him in summer 2015. He scored 36 times in 89 top-flight games for Les Canaris, including 12 this season, before signing for Cardiff.
Information from Reuters, The Associated Press, Ian Holyman and Aramide Oladipo contributed to this report.