There are “genuine growing concerns” for the well-being of Cardiff City’s record signing Emiliano Sala. This follows the disappearance of a lightweight plane he is believed to have been travelling in. The five seater Piper Malibu aircraft which is understood to have departed Nantes for Wales vanished from the radar off Alderney in the Channel Islands on Monday evening. French sources say two people were on board the plane, Sala and the pilot, but it lost contact with air traffic control near Casquets lighthouse – around eight miles north-west of Guernsey in the English Channel.
In a statement, Guernsey Police said:
"Guernsey Coastguard received an alert at 20:23 from Jersey ATC, that a light aircraft had gone off their radar approximately 15 miles north of Guernsey, initiating a major search and rescue operation involving both St Peter Port and Alderney lifeboats. Air Search 1 and 2 HM Coastguard helicopters are also involved in the search.
"The PA 46 Malibu, a single turbine engine aircraft was on route from Nantes in France, to Cardiff in Wales, with two people on board when it was lost off radar as Jersey ATC was attempting to make contact.
"A search model was created on SARIS, based on the likely ditching position, and all search and rescue assets were tasked to the area.
"The search was terminated at 02:00, with all search and rescue assets being stood down, due to strengthening winds, worsening sea conditions and reducing visibility.
"At this time no trace of the missing aircraft had been found.
"The aircraft departed Nantes at 1915 for Cardiff. The aircraft was flying at 5000 feet. The aircraft on passing Guernsey requested descent. Jersey ATC lost contact whilst it was flying at 2300 feet.
"Air Search 1 and a French rescue helicopter based in Cherbourg, resumed the search of the area at 08:00."
HM Coastguard said the incident was not in the UK search and rescue area, although it confirmed it had sent two helicopters to help.
Argentine striker Sala completed a £15 million ($19m) move to Cardiff on Saturday having netted 12 Ligue 1 goals already this season and his new club expressed serious concerns on Tuesday morning about his whereabouts. Sala flew to Cardiff on Friday morning to undergo a medical, which was completed at around 5pm. He passed it but it was too late for him to be involved against Newcastle on Saturday.
The Argentine carried out press duties with Cardiff on Friday evening and posed for a picture holding a Cardiff shirt with fans outside the stadium. As he was not required to train with Cardiff until Tuesday, Sala flew back to Nantes to sort out his personal affairs and to say goodbye to his friends and team-mates.
Sala's most recent activity on social media, at lunchtime on Monday, shows the Argentine - who became Cardiff's club-record signing - bidding farewell to his former team-mates at Nantes.