Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona plead for Emiliano Sala search to continue

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Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona have joined calls to resume the search for the missing plane carrying Cardiff striker Emiliano Sala.

Guernsey Police called off the search for Sala and pilot David Ibbotson on Thursday afternoon, but the player’s former club Nantes led calls from across football for it to be resumed.

Barcelona star Messi added his voice to the cause on Friday, writing on his Instagram story, said: “As long as there are still possibilities, a hint of hope, we ask you please continue to look for Emiliano.

“I send all my strength and support to his family and friends. #PrayforSala.”

Another Argentinian football superstar, 1986 World Cup winner Maradona, also posted on Instagram pleading for the search to continue, with the message: “Hope never dies.”

Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero, used the social media hashtag #NoDejenDeBuscar – “do not stop searching”.

Nantes reacted with anger at the decision to formally call off the search for Sala’s missing plane as the striker’s sister begged rescue workers to keep looking for it.

An emotional Romina Sala, speaking in Spanish, told reporters in Cardiff that she feels her brother and his pilot are still alive.

Ms Sala travelled to south Wales after a light aircraft carrying her brother and the pilot disappeared from radar on Monday night.

Guernsey’s harbour master Captain David Barker earlier confirmed the “difficult” decision to end the search, saying the chances of survival were “extremely remote”.

The single-turbine engine Piper PA-46 Malibu left Nantes for Cardiff at 7.15pm on Monday, and after requesting to descend, lost contact with Jersey air traffic control.

Cardiff signed 28-year-old Sala for a club-record £15million to bolster their attack and he had been due to start training on Tuesday.

Nantes, for whom Sala played for three and a half years before sealing a move to the Premier League, said on Twitter: “FC Nantes has learnt that the search for the missing plane was called off. This search mustn’t stop, @GuernseyPolice

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“The club and its supporters strongly ask for the search to find @EmilianoSala1 to go on, for his family and his near relatives. Together for Emi ! #PrayForSala.”

A number of Sala’s former teammates also urged rescue workers to continue looking, Nantes captain Valentin Rongier tweeting: “The search can not stop! Help us encourage the police to continue searching. We need everyone. Let’s fight as Emi does all the time, please. #PrayforSala @GuernseyPolice.”

Another Argentinian player, Manchester City defender Nicolas Otamendi, said: “I’d like to express my sympathies to Emiliano’s family, and urge the police to keep searching for the plane. There’s still hope to find them alive. All my support to his family, and let’s hope they get an answer urgently.”

The Premier League has said there will be a “moment of silent reflection” ahead of games next week, while Cardiff are planning their own tributes before their home match against Bournemouth on February 2.

Tributes Are Made To Cardiff City's Missing Footballer As Search For Plane is Called Off

Nantes coach Vahid Halilhodzic was visibly emotional as he paid tribute to Sala in an interview with reporters at the club’s training ground, describing him as a “real warrior”.

“We have to respect the decision of the family who, for the moment, have had no confirmation, so hope still exists,” he said.

“We are still waiting for a surprise. I hope that arrives very soon.

“It is for that reason that we do not want to hold either a tribute to him or a minute’s silence.”

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