Nantes to retire No.9 shirt in honour of Emiliano Sala as they pay emotional tribute to their former striker

Emiliano Sala Nantes

Nantes have paid an emotional tribute to Emiliano Sala following confirmation that his body has been recovered from the wreckage of a plane he was travelling on that crashed on its way to Cardiff.

Messages of condolence have flooded in from around the world for family and friends of the Argentine, as well as the Ligue 1 club he represented with such distinction.

Such kind words have been welcomed by those in France, with Nantes revealing that they are to retire their No.9 shirt as a mark of respect to an Argentine striker who spent four years on their books.

A statement released by the club read: "FC Nantes had the immense sadness on Thursday to learn that the body found was that of Emiliano Sala. This news puts an end to interminable and unbearable waiting. Emiliano will forever be one of the legends who has written the great history of FC Nantes.

"There are difficult mornings, nightmarish awakenings, where unhappily reality hit us. Emi is gone…

"Emiliano Sala arrived on the backs of the Edre in July 2015 and knew how to win the hearts of the Nantes supporters. With his work, his desire and his kindness without limits, he finished as the club’s top scorer in his three seasons.

"The homages paid to him nationally and internationally match the player and personal that he was. Today, we have lost a friend, a talented player and an exemplary team-mate.

"We can’t forget in this drama the pilot and his family and have confidence that the authorities will continue their search.

"For Waldemar Kita, president of FC Nantes: 'I don’t have the words. It’s a tragedy, I’m crushed. Emiliano left his mark. That’s why, like many fans, I wish to honour him by retiring the No.9.'

"Nantes, its board, its staff and its players, wish to pass the families of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson their deepest condolences. We will never forget you Emi.

"He’s an Argentine who never gives up, Emiliano Sala, Emiliano Sala…"

Emiliano Sala

Nantes have also taken the decision to make their official club website a tribute to Sala.

Anybody visiting the site on Friday will land on a homepage dedicated to the 28-year-old South American.

Sala's family have thanked those who continue to offer support from across the globe, with a statement released to AFP reading: "We wanted to thank you all for your marks of affection and support in what is the most painful moment of our lives.

"To see the whole world come together to accompany us in our search has been an infinitely precious help and it’s thanks to you that we can begin to mourn for our son and our brother.

"On Friday morning, our thoughts turn towards David Ibbotson and his family, in the hope that the authorities can do everything to find him.

"We ask you for respect during our mourning in these difficult times and to keep Emi in your prayers and in your thoughts."

Those in Cardiff are also still coming to terms with the events which unfolded on January 21.

They were rocked by the initial reports of Sala’s plane going missing while en route to Wales and posted an emotional message of their own on Thursday evening.

The Bluebirds said on their official website: "It is with great sadness that we report the following statement, issued on February 7th 2019 by the Dorset Police:

"The body brought to Portland Port today, Thursday 7 February 2019, has been formally identified by HM Coroner for Dorset as that of professional footballer Emiliano Sala.

"The families of Mr Sala and the pilot David Ibbotson have been updated with this news and will continue to be supported by specially-trained family liaison officers."
"We offer our most heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of Emiliano. He and David will forever remain in our thoughts.