KUALA LUMPUR: English Premier League (EPL) club Cardiff were looking forward to bringing the missing Emiliano Sala’s life and career to the next level, said club owner Tan Sri Vincent Tan.
Speaking for the first time since the disappearance of the plane carrying the Argentine footballer over the English Channel, the distressed Malaysian business tycoon said Sala had been described by those who have met him as a good-natured and humble young man who was eager to impress in the EPL.
“Monday evening's news shook everyone at Cardiff City FC to the core. We were looking forward to providing Sala with the next step in his life and career.
“The response from the football community has been truly touching and we place on record our sincere thanks to those who have sent messages of support.
“We also thank everyone involved with the search and rescue operation, and continue to pray for Emiliano and (pilot) David Ibbotson and their families,” he said in a statement posted on the club's website, www.cardiffcityfc.co.uk.
The club statement came following a statement issued by Harbour Master Captain David Barker of the Guernsey Police confirming that the search had been abandoned after finding no trace of the aircraft.
“Despite the best efforts of air and search assets from the Channel Islands, United Kingdom and France, which has covered an area of approximately 4,400 sq km – with a significant amount of this searched more than once – and having examined mobile phone data and satellite imagery, we have been unable to find any trace of the aircraft, the pilot or the passenger.
“There has been over 24 hours of continuous searching, with 80 hours combined flying time across three planes and five helicopters. Two lifeboats have also been involved, as well as assistance from various passing ships and fishing boats.
“The chances of survival at this stage are extremely remote. Next-of-kin have been informed of this development, and my thoughts go out to the family of the pilot and passenger at this most difficult of times,” said the statement.
According to international news agencies reports, the 28-year-old Argentine was on board the single-engine Piper Malibu flight that vanished over the English Channel on Monday.
It was reported that Sala, who completed the transfer from French Ligue 1 side Nantes to Cardiff with the club's record fee of 17mil (RM80mil), was en route to the Welsh capital when the aircraft lost radar contact near the island of Guernsey.
Sala, who has been playing in France since 2012, scored 12 goals for Nantes last season and was the club's top scorer.
Cardiff currently face a relegation battle in the EPL, after having managed to accumulate only 19 points from 23 games to be placed in 18th place among 20 teams.
As the bottom three teams will be relegated to the second division, it was hoped that Sala's goal-scoring prowess would help the Bluebirds survive relegation with 15 matches to complete the 2018/19 season. — Bernama
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