Emiliano Sala was on missing plane, French officials say

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Emiliano Sala | Getty Images

(CNN) — An Argentinian soccer player who had just signed with an English Premier League club was on a plane which went missing over the English Channel on Monday evening, French aviation officials told CNN.

Emiliano Sala, 28, signed for Cardiff City for a reported £15 million ($19.3 million) from French club Nantes on Saturday. The striker was returning to his new club after saying farewell to his former team-mates in France.

The plane, a single turbine Piper Malibu, was flying to Cardiff from Nantes in northern France when it disappeared from radar near the Channel Islands just before 8:30 p.m. local time (3:30 p.m ET) Monday.

Sala's name was on the list of passengers, Frederic Solano of France's Directorate General for Civil Aviation, told CNN.

Despite a 1,000 square mile search involving five aircraft and two lifeboats, there has been no sign of the aircraft, Guernsey Police said on Twitter. The search is continuing, the statement added.

"There was no distress call, it was simply lost from radar and from communications," Captain David Barker, harbormaster for the state of Guernsey, told reporters.

"It is possible that the aircraft has diverted somewhere else but we are continuing a search if in the unfortunate event it has actually ditched into the sea.

"The weather conditions are better now but the sea water is not very warm. I'm imagining that people in a light aircraft wouldn't be wearing particularly warm clothing and so it is concerning because if they're in the water their chances of surviving are diminishing all the time."

'Very concerned'

Cardiff City, which paid a club record fee for Sala, said Tuesday it was "very concerned for the safety" of its new star striker. The club said it was "seeking clarification" about what happened.

"We are very concerned by the latest news that a light aircraft lost contact over the Channel last night," said Cardiff City chairman Mehmet Dalman. "We are awaiting confirmation before we can say anything further. We are very concerned for the safety of Emiliano Sala."

Sala, who agreed a three-year deal with the Welsh club on Saturday, had scored 12 league goals for Nantes this season. Cardiff is in the Premier League's relegation zone and has scored just 19 goals in 23 league games.

In his most recent tweet on Monday, just hours before he was due to fly, Sala posted a photo of himself with the Nantes FC team and the caption: "the last one, goodbye."

A team of lifeboats and helicopters from Guernsey and the UK, and a helicopter from Cherbourg in France, were searching on Tuesday for the plane, which went missing about 15 miles (24 kilometers) off the island of Alderney.

The search was suspended in the early hours of Tuesday morning due to strong winds, worsening sea conditions and reduced visibility, said police, before resuming again at 8 a.m. local time.

"At that time (of the disappearance) there were some showers around, but nothing too intense. Wind speeds were not too bad -- average speeds were around 15 to 20 miles per hour," Met Office meteorologist Mark Wilson told the UK's Press Association.

The plane was flying at 5,000 feet, police said. But on passing Guernsey it requested descent, and air traffic control lost contact while it was flying at 2,300 feet.

Sala scored 42 goals for Nantes since joining from Bordeaux in 2015. Only two players have scored more goals than Sala in France's top flight this season -- Kylian Mbappe (14) and Nicolas Pepe (13).

The Argentinian would have likely been available to make his debut for Cardiff in next Tuesday's Premier League match at Arsenal.

This story was first published on CNN.com, "Emiliano Sala was on missing plane, French officials say."