The sister of footballer Emiliano Sala has led tributes to the Argentinian striker after his body was recovered from the English Channel.
Sala was flying to Cardiff to begin a new career in the Premier League when his plane disappeared from radar.
In a separate statement, Sala’s family thanked people for “all your signs of affection and support in what is the most painful time in our lives”.
“Seeing the whole world mobilised to support us in our research has been an infinitely precious help.
“Thanks to you, we are now able to mourn our son, our brother.”
They added that their thoughts are with the family of pilot David Ibbotson.
Sala and Ibbotson, 59, were travelling from Nantes to Cardiff when their plane disappeared over the English Channel. The wreckage of the Piper Malibu N264DB was found several days later by a privately-funded search and rescue mission.
Dorset police announced on Thursday night that a body recovered from the plane the day before had been identified as that of Sala.
‘Forever in our hearts. Forever a Bluebird’
Cardiff FC, who had just signed Sala for a club-record fee of €17 million, said in a statement that they “offer our most heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the Family of Emiliano”.
“He and David will forever remain in our thoughts,” they added.
Cardiff FC and Southampton have announced that players will be wearing black armbands during their Premier League match on Saturday. A minute of silence will also be held.
A FC Nantes ‘legend’
FC Nantes, Sala’s club of more than three years, said in a statement that it was “immensely sad” to learn that the body recovered had been identified as Sala’s.
“This news puts an end to an interminable and unbearable wait. Emiliano will forever be part of the legends that have written the great story of FC Nantes,” it went on.
The president of the club, Waldemar Kita, wrote that he is “devastated” and announced that the club will retire the number 9 jersey, worn by Sala.
To allow a “maximum of supporters” to pay their respects to Sala, the club has announced that tickets for Sunday’s game will all be sold for €9.
Noel Le Graet, president of the French Football Association described Sala as “an exemplary player, a figure of our Ligue 1 championship.”
“He was appreciated by everyone on and off the field,” he said in a statement.
‘You were loved by everybody’
Players from Nantes and Cardiff have also paid their tributes to Sala, including Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, defender Joe Bennett and centre-half Sol Bamba and Nantes’ goalkeeper Quentin Braat, defender Fabio Da Silva and striker Waris Majeed.
Sala’s first European club, Bordeaux, wrote that they “still remember your teenager’s face when you landed from your native Argentina, constantly smiling but already showing the determination that was your strength”.
“Wherever you are today, we hope that there’s a ball and a pitch waiting for you so that you can be happy for eternity,” it added.
His sibling Romina published an emotional post on Instagram after the 28-year-old was confirmed dead by police.
“Your soul in my soul will shine forever, illuminating the time of my existence. I love you, Tito,” she wrote.