Nantes made a moving 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.
The Ligue 1 side changed their official club website to only show a photo of Sala with the words ‘Noue ne t’oublierons jamais, Emi!’ which translates as “We will never forget you, Emi!”
Nantes also retired the number-nine shirt in Sala’s memory.
President Waldemar Kita told the club’s official website: “I do not have the words, it’s a tragedy. I’m devastated, Emiliano left his mark, which is why, like many fans, I want to honour him again by removing the number nine.”
Cardiff also said that the forward will always remain in their thoughts.
The club 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.”
Despite not getting the chance to play for Cardiff, several of his new team-mates shared their sadness at the news of his death.
Club Statement (07/02/19): https://t.co/ib8zJfWzvC
Forever in our thoughts 💙
— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) February 7, 2019
Joe Bennett said simply: “RIP Emiliano”, alongside several heart emojis, while Sol Bamba described the news as “tragic”.
💛💙😪 RIP Emiliano ❤
— Joe Bennett (@JoeBennett27) February 7, 2019
Tragic… May you rest in peace. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/ybrax86w1t
— Sol Bamba (@Sol14Bamba) February 7, 2019
Oumar Niasse tweeted: “RIP @EmilianoSala1 Forever in our thoughts”.
— Oumar Niasse (@niassebayeoumar) February 7, 2019
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”.
View this post on Instagram
Lamento muchísimo esta noticia tan triste. Muchos guardábamos una luz de esperanza por vos, Emiliano. Le mando un abrazo muy grande a tus familiares y amigos, y agradezco en nombre de los argentinos el respeto de los colegas e hinchas de todas partes del mundo. Hasta siempre Emiliano! #RecenPorSala #PrayForSala
A post shared by Diego Maradona Oficial (@maradona) on Feb 7, 2019 at 5:40pm PST
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.
Enorme tristeza 😢 QEDP Emiliano. Mis condolencias a familiares y amigos #PrayForSala 🙏🏾//Terribly sad 😢 Rest in peace, Emiliano. My condolences to his friends and family #PrayForSala 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/n9aV5CGcI1
— Sergio Kun Aguero (@aguerosergiokun) February 8, 2019
View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Gabriel Boschilia (@boschilia) on Feb 7, 2019 at 3:55pm PST
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.”
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. pic.twitter.com/BD9P0TwwOX
— UEFA (@UEFA) February 8, 2019
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.”
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 pic.twitter.com/U2bBV7cb36
— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) February 8, 2019
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.”