THE search for Emiliano Sala is set to resume after Lionel Messi and host of football stars helped raise £130k for a private rescue mission.
Footie’s biggest names have rallied around after the search for Sala, 28, and his Brit Pilot Dave Ibbotson, was officially called off on Thursday.
More than 1,700 sq-ft of land and sea was scoured by search and rescue teams after the Argentine ace’s small private plane went missing over the Channel on Monday.
He was flying from Nantes, western France, to Cardiff after making a club-record £15million transfer to the Premier League strugglers.
Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan, Nantes manager Vahid Halilhodzic, Leicester City winger Demarai Gray and Bayern Munich’s Corentin Tolisso have all contributed to the donation page.
It was set up by Sala’s French football agency, Sport Cover, while a petition launched in France has gathered more than 80,000 signatures.
Argentine footie legends Messi and Diego Maradona are among those who have made public pleas for the search to be restarted.
We will find Emiliano and the pilot. He is a fighter and we feel he is still out there.
Three planes and five helicopters racked up 80 hours combined flying time looking for the plane, working alongside two lifeboats and other passing ships.
Guernsey’s harbour master explained a “difficult” decision was made to call off the mission, saying the chances of survival were “extremely remote”.
Sala’s sister Romina made a heartfelt plea for the search to start up again as she broke down in tears outside Cardiff City’s stadium.
She said: “We really are thankful for the support of all the players in the way they have said that we should not stop our efforts.
“We will find a way to restart the search. We will find Emiliano and the pilot.
“He is a fighter and we feel he is still out there.
“He has been travelling from the age of 16.
“We know he is somewhere – we want to bring him back.
“We’ve been in touch with people who are investigating. We are trying to best to find Emiliano because we are sure he is still here.
“We are very humbled by the way people are helping.”
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