When Cardiff City and Nantes debated over whether Emiliano Sala would be allowed to play one last match for the French club last month, nobody could have anticipated the desperate turn of events that would make such a matter feel so incredibly trivial.

During negotiations between the two clubs, Nantes had reportedly been keen for Sala to feature for them one last time against Angers, but it was Cardiff who eventually got their way and the Argentine striker's club-record move to the Welsh capital was confirmed on the eve of that match.

It was a story typical of the January transfer window – a buying club tenaciously chasing mid-season reinforcements but facing stubbornness from a selling club determined not to be left in the lurch by the loss of one of their key players.

Typical, that is, until a Piper Malibu aircraft transporting Sala to Wales from western France disappeared over the English Channel late on Monday, January 21.

Following a three-day operation covering approximately 1,700 square miles around the Channel Islands, a statement issued by Guernsey Police from harbour master Captain David Barker confirmed active search and rescue efforts had been abandoned after his team had been "unable to find any trace of the aircraft, the pilot or the passenger". At that stage, chances of survival were considered "extremely remote".

As an extensive outpouring of grief and sympathy from across the football community continued, a number of high-profile figures and members of the public answered the Sala family's calls to fund a private search.

That operation located the plane wreckage on the seabed and the body of a victim, which police announced had been identified as that of Sala late on Thursday.

Sala's professional breakthrough came at Proyecto Crecer in his homeland – a youth academy with links to Ligue 1 side Bordeaux, who spotted his talent and brought him to Europe in 2012.

Although his time at Bordeaux demanded patience – Sala only made 11 league appearances for the club over three years – loan periods at Orleans, Niort and Caen gave him a platform to demonstrate his abilities.

Nineteen goals in 37 matches at third-tier Orleans, 18 in 37 league games with Ligue 2 outfit Niort and then five in 13 top-flight appearances with Caen – a period in which he played alongside N'Golo Kante and Thomas Lemar – convinced Nantes to take him to Stade de la Beaujoire on a five-year contract in 2015, paying a reported €1million for his services.

Sala quickly became a regular starter for Nantes and he racked up 42 league goals in three and a half seasons for the club. This term brought 12 from 19 games in Ligue 1, persuading  Cardiff that Sala was the man to fire them away from the Premier League relegation zone.

Tragically, he was never able to put such undoubted talent on display for a club and a competition that now mourns him along with the rest of the global game.

Dorset Police has confirmed the body recovered from a plane wreckage in the English Channel is that of Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala.

The UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) confirmed on Wednesday that a victim had been passed to the Dorset Coroner, having been recovered with the help of specialist contractors.

The Piper Malibu aircraft disappeared with Sala and pilot David Ibbotson on board on January 21, with the 28-year-old en route to Cardiff having completed a club-record transfer from Ligue 1 side Nantes.

A police statement issued late on Thursday read: "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. Our thoughts remain with them at this difficult time.

"HM Coroner will continue to investigate the circumstances of this death supported by Dorset Police."

An initial search and rescue effort was called off by Guernsey Police after three days on January 24.

Guernsey harbourmaster Captain David Barker called their chances of survival "extremely remote", but a number of high-profile football figures and members of the public answered the family's calls to fund a private search operation.

The plane was located on the seabed off Guernsey on Sunday using a remotely operated vehicle, during which time a body was found amid what remained of the light aircraft.

A recovery operation was then launched following consultation with the families of Sala and Ibbotson, and the police.

The football world came together in grief and to pay its respects as the severity of the Sala story began to unfold, with floral tributes laid outside Cardiff City Stadium and vigils held in Nantes, where 42 goals in three-and-a-half seasons made him a fan favourite.

Following reports of a dispute between the two clubs this week, Cardiff chairman Mehmet Dalman confirmed the Premier League outfit were yet to pay the first instalment of Sala's transfer fee.

"We must show respect to the family. There is a process for recovering the plane," he said, prior to Sala's body being identified.

"[We will pay] when we think it's the right time to do it. I don't think Cardiff said we were not going to pay."

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