Emiliano Sala: Cardiff boss Warnock hopes family find 'peace & comfort'

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Neil Warnock's tribute to Emiliano Sala

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock hopes the recovery and identification of Emiliano Sala's body will bring peace and comfort to his grieving family.

Argentine striker Sala was travelling to Cardiff in a light aircraft piloted by David Ibbotson, which went missing over the English Channel on 21 January.

The Welsh club have offered to fund the repatriation of the 28-year-old's body.

The Premier League and EFL have confirmed players will wear black armbands at all matches this weekend.

There will be a minute's silence at Southampton v Cardiff on Saturday.

Sala's body was recovered late on Wednesday after the wreckage of the plane was found on Sunday. Dorset Police confirmed the identification on Thursday night.

Speaking on Friday, Warnock said: "It brings the family peace, offers them comfort."

Cardiff paid a club record £15m to French club Nantes for the striker, but he did not play a game for the Premier League side.

Warnock said he fitted "every criteria" he looks for in a player, adding: "At the same time he was a really nice lad. That would be my memory of him.

"He was at his prime, he had things to prove. He'd been in a comfort zone in France but he'd improved every year for the past few years.

"I thought he was ready. He was a little bit fearful of the challenge ahead but he knew he had to try and make that step.

"I thought he could score goals in the Premier League, and he did."

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

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Warnock said he had considered resigning "24 hours a day, seven days a week".

Since Sala's plane disappeared, Cardiff, who are in the Premier League's relegation zone, have lost narrowly at Arsenal and beaten Bournemouth at home.

"My mind has been back on football, as it's got to be. I steer the ship, but I have to say the boys and the staff have been great to me," Warnock added.

"That does matter when you're a team off the field as well as on it.

You could see the response at Arsenal from the players - probably the best away performance - and the Bournemouth game was very good from our point of view, football-wise."

The 70-year-old would not comment on Nantes demanding payment over the transfer fee, instead paying tribute to the club's chairman Mehmet Dalman and chief executive Ken Choo.

"I couldn't be more grateful to Mehmet and Ken, who are keeping everything away from me. They're dealing with that and I have enough on my plate in terms of on the field," he said.

French World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe was among the high-profile players who responded financially to fund the family's private search for the aircraft and bodies.

Warnock said: "When I spoke to Romina [Sala's sister], she didn't want to let it go - and I wouldn't have wanted to. To get that response is just amazing. And I'm sure anybody in the circumstances would have done that. It shows football isn't all bad news."

Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson
Emiliano Sala (left) was on board a plane being flown by pilot David Ibbotson

Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan joined Warnock in offering condolences to the Sala family.

"I wish to express my deepest heartfelt condolences to the family of Emiliano Sala for their loss," he said via a statement.

"May Emiliano's soul rest in peace. I am personally very sad over this incident. This fine young man would have been very happy and successful at Cardiff City where he would have made a new home and many friends.

"Cardiff City will continue to work with the AAIB and investigators to find out how the crash happened and to assist Emiliano's family.

"We have offered to them to arrange to take Emiliano back to rest with his family in Argentina. Even though he will be there his soul will always be in our hearts. We feel a tremendous loss but the biggest loss is borne by Sala's family. May Sala's soul rest in peace."

Scarfs and flags continue to be laid around the statue of former captain Fred Keenor at the Cardiff City Stadium in tribute to Sala and Ibbotson, whose body has not been found.

"I had a walk around the stadium one night when nobody was around - it was nice to see the shirts from clubs in the lower divisions," Warnock said.

"It makes you realise it's had a worldwide affect, the tributes hit home.

"I'm sure his [David Ibbotson's] family will be going through hell. Our thoughts are with him and his family."

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