Emiliano Sala: Lionel Messi leads calls from across football for search to resume

Tributes to striker Emiliano Sala have been laid by supporters at Cardiff City Stadium
Tributes to striker Emiliano Sala have been laid by supporters at Cardiff City Stadium

Lionel Messi has joined calls from across football to continue the search for missing Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson.

The plane carrying Argentine Sala, 28, disappeared on Monday near Guernsey and a three-day search of the English Channel was called off on Thursday.

His former club Nantes posted on social media: "This search mustn't stop."

Barcelona forward Messi said: "While there is possibility, even a shred of hope, we ask don't stop searching."

Writing on Instagram, the Argentina international added: "All my strength and support to his family and friends."

Fellow players, including Manchester City's Argentine forward Sergio Aguero, have used the social media hashtag #NoDejenDeBuscar - "do not stop searching".

Rescue crews have searched about 1,700 square miles of land and sea since the Piper PA-46 Malibu vanished from radar on Monday evening near the Channel Island of Alderney.

Sala, who became Cardiff's £15m record signing on Saturday, was travelling from Nantes - where he had been saying goodbye to his former team-mates at the Ligue 1 club - to the Welsh capital.

Guernsey harbourmaster Capt David Barker said it had been a "difficult" decision to call off the search, but explained the chances of survival were "extremely remote" given the time elapsed.

It emerged on Friday the Air Accident Investigation Branch is investigating "all operational aspects of the flight including licensing".

Sala's sister Romina travelled to Cardiff to hold a news conference on Thursday, where she pleaded with authorities: "Please, please, please don't stop the search. We understand the effort but please don't stop the search."

Aguero led the calls from footballers to continue trying to find his compatriot Sala, tweeting: "We don't want to give up, we want to hold on to hope... don't call off the search."

Aguero's City team-mate, Argentina defender Nicolas Otamendi, urged rescuers to "keep searching", while Chelsea's new Argentine signing Gonzalo Higuain called on "the world" to use social media to ask that the search be continued.

Newcastle United's Argentine defender Federico Fernandez - a former Swansea City player, Marseille's France winger Florian Thauvin and Brazilian ex-Manchester United defender Fabio da Silva - now with Nantes - were among those to offer support to the search for Sala.

Image of Sergio Aguero's tweet
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero urged the search for Sala not to be called off
Fabio da Silva's tweet in which he uses the hashtag #prayforSala
Sala's former team-mate Fabio tweeted his support
Image of Axel Witsel's tweet saying his thoughts and prayers are with Sala's family and friends
Borussia Dortmund's Axel Witsel posted on social media on Friday morning
Image of Florian Thauvin's tweet
"For Sala, for his family and loved ones, the search cannot stop! We must encourage the police to continue the search! Sala is a warrior, you have to believe in him."

Wreaths and tributes have been laid by fans at Sala's clubs, including Cardiff, Nantes and San Martin de Progreso in Argentina.

Cardiff City said in a statement that it was "with a heavy heart" that the club had learned of the decision to call off the search, while the Premier League said it was "deeply saddened".

The Premier League added there would be silences before kick-off at next week's matches for "reflection" and as a mark of respect.

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Romina Sala pleads with rescue teams not to give up the search

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