Cardiff City’s new £15million Argentinian striker Emiliano Sala is feared dead after plane he was on disappears over the Channel Islands as he was flying back to Wales

Premier League footballer Emiliano Sala is feared dead after his private aircraft vanished over the English Channel last night.

Cardiff City Football Club chairman Mehmet Dalman this morning said he was ‘very concerned’ for the Argentine striker, who left Nantes in France heading to Cardiff in Wales yesterday evening.

French police and Nantes Football Club today confirmed that Sala was one of the two people on board the Piper Malibu which lost contact near the Casquets lighthouse more than 12 hours ago.

Cardiff City announced the signing of the Argentinian striker from Nantes in a club record fee of £15million on Saturday and Sala had returned to France after completing his move to say goodbye to his old teammates.

He was due to report for training in Cardiff this morning.

An air and sea search has been launched in the Channel Islands for the light aircraft which lost contact at 8.30pm yesterday evening, as severe weather warnings about snow and ice were issued across France.

Nantes have announced their French Cup match due to be staged tonight against L’Entente Sannois Saint-Gratien has been postponed in agreement with the French Football Federation. ceme online

Cardiff City chairman Mehmet Dalman said today: ‘We are very concerned by the latest news that a light aircraft lost contact over the Channel last night. We are awaiting confirmation before we can say anything further. We are very concerned for the safety of Emiliano Sala.’

A source at Ligue 1 football club Nantes, which Sala had just left, confirmed that he had been in France to ‘say goodbye’ to his old teammates.

Yesterday Sala shared a picture with other players at his old training ground, alongside the caption: ‘The last goodbye’.

A source said: ‘Emiliano loved the club, and was loyal to everyone. He was here to say goodbye, and was due to go to Cardiff on a private plane. It was just a short hop, and he was expected in Wales around 9pm.

‘He was very excited about playing in Britain.’

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‘Everyone, including his family, is now involved in an unbearable wait for news.’

Sala was believed to have been driven to Nantes-Atlantiqe airport by Nantes player, Nicolas Pallois.

Sala’s former teammates have expressed their concern online this morning, including French Guingamp midfielder Lucas Deaux who tweeted: ‘I hope from the bottom of my heart that this is not true.’

Amine Harit, a Moroccan footballer who played with Sala at Nantes before joining German side FC Schalke in 2017, suggested he was praying for the missing player in a tweet.

He wrote simply ‘Emi..’ followed by a string of praying hands and crying emojis.

Nantes forward Randal Kolo-Muani retweeted Harit’s message on his personal account.

This graphic shows the lifeboat circling Alderney, in the ongoing search for the aircraft +16
This graphic shows the lifeboat circling Alderney, in the ongoing search for the aircraft

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Sala left Nantes to travel to Cardiff last night +16
The 28-year-old could have been set to make his debut at the Emirates against Arsenal on January 29 +16
Sala left Nantes to travel to Cardiff last night. The 28-year-old could have been set to make his debut at the Emirates against Arsenal on January 29

Sala could have been set to make his debut at the Emirates against Arsenal on January 29.

Speaking on Saturday after signing for the Bluebirds, Sala said: ‘I can’t wait to start training, meet my new team-mates and get down to work.’

Before switching to Cardiff, Sala was the third highest scorer in Ligue 1 this season with 12 goals, behind only Kylian Mbappe and Nicolas Pepe.

He said at the time: ‘For me it feels special [to be the Club’s record signing]. I have come here wanting to work and to help my teammates and the Club. I can’t wait to get to work straight away and do everything I can.’

Cardiff City said it was ‘seeking clarification’ as to what happened.

Cardiff Airport confirmed the aircraft was due to arrive from Nantes but a spokeswoman said there were no further details.

Police said in a statement that the aircraft left Nantes at 1915 for Cardiff and was flying at 5,000 feet.

The lighthouse on the Casquets rocks, off the coast of Alderney in the Channel Islands +16
The lighthouse on the Casquets rocks, off the coast of Alderney in the Channel Islands

Cardiff City’s new record £15million signing Emiliano Sala, pictured on Saturday, was on board a missing private aircraft from Nantes to the Welsh capital +16
Cardiff City’s new record £15million signing Emiliano Sala, pictured on Saturday, was on board a missing private aircraft from Nantes to the Welsh capital

Sala with his mother +16
Sala regularly posts photographs of his family on social media +16
Sala regularly posts photographs of his family on social media, including this one with his mother (left), which he captioned ‘Thank you, mum’

Sala posted this photograph to social media last year, and regularly kept fans updated with his training +16
Sala posted this photograph to social media last year, and regularly kept fans updated with his training

+16

The Casquets from the air, showing the lighthouse on the centre island

The plane lost contact near the Casquets lighthouse off the coast of Alderney +16
The plane lost contact near the Casquets lighthouse off the coast of Alderney

Police on Guernsey said the search for the plane resumed at 8am on Tuesday, adding: ‘At this time no trace of the missing aircraft had been found.’

The search had been called off at 2am ‘due to strengthening winds, worsening sea conditions and reducing visibility.

‘The aircraft on passing Guernsey requested descent. Jersey ATC (air traffic control) lost contact whilst it was flying at 2,300 feet.’

Rescue teams were scrambled to waters north of Alderney after the light aircraft vanished on Monday evening, Guernsey Police said.

‘A search and rescue operation is currently underway off the north of Alderney after a light aircraft disappeared from radar several hours ago,’ the force said.

‘Two helicopters alongside the Guernsey and Alderney lifeboats are searching for it.’

The Alderney lifeboat said it launched at 8.50pm on Monday night.

The plane is thought to have been travelling from Nantes in Brittany to Cardiff.

HM Coastguard said the incident was not in the UK search and rescue area, although it had sent two helicopters to help.

‘HM Coastguard are currently assisting Guernsey Coastguard with a search for a light aircraft off Alderney in the Channel Islands,’ a spokeswoman said.

‘HM Coastguard helicopters from Solent and Newquay have been helping to search overnight with nothing found.’

The search and rescue operation had to deal with worsening conditions as they scoured the area on Monday night.

‘At that time there were some showers around, but nothing too intense. Wind speeds were not too bad – average speeds were around 15 to 20mph,’ Met Office meteorologist Mark Wilson said.

‘But it has got pretty wet, we’ve seen a band of rain push down from the north-west. That rain set in around 11.30pm to midnight and it’s still raining now.

‘It’s also a bit windier, with gusts around 35mph.’

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