Messi and Maradona join campaign as Sala family hire private company to resume search

Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona have added to the growing calls for the search for Emiliano Sala to be resumed, with the family of the missing Cardiff City striker hiring a private company to continue looking for the footballer.

Guernsey Police called off the search for Sala and pilot David Ibbotson on Thursday after three days of searching for a plane that went missing over the English Channel on Monday, with an extensive operation having covered approximately 1,700 square miles.

Sala's sister Romina and father Horacio both expressed their shock and dismay at the decision, although a statement from harbour master captain David Barker released via Guernsey Police gave a detailed explanation.

"We reviewed all the information available to us, as well as knowing what emergency equipment was on board, and have taken the difficult decision to end the search," he said. "The chances of survival at this stage are extremely remote."

The #NoDejenDeBuscar (#DontStopSearching) hashtag has been used by a wide range of football figures to urge authorities to reconsider their decision to stop the search for Sala and his family are planning to launch their own operation.

"If the authorisation of the British police is obtained this afternoon, the search for Emiliano with a private rescue company will be resumed," family friend Martin Molteni said to La Nacion on Friday.

"We still do not know where the investigation of this fact is going to be carried out."

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Calls for the authorities to rethink their decision to halt the search for Argentinian forward Sala have grown, with Messi among the football stars to show their support for the campaign.

"While there are possibilities, a minimum hope, we ask that please #NoDejenDeBuscar," Messi posted on his Instagram story. "Emiliano. All my strength and support to the family and friends."

Diego Maradona also posted a photograph of Sala to his Instagram account with the campaign hashtag.

"Hope never dies," the World Cup winner wrote.

A photo posted by on

On Thursday, Manchester City's Argentina attacker Sergio Aguero was among those to call for the Sala search to resume.

"We don't want to give up, we want to hold on to hope," said the City striker. "That's why I also wish #NoDejenDeBuscar - don't call off the search. From the start, my thoughts have been with Emiliano, his family and friends #PrayForSala."

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Aguero's City team-mate Nicolas Otamendi added: "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."

And their Argentina colleague Gonzalo Higuain said in a video message: "I ask all the people of the world to continue the search for Emiliano Sala until the last moment. There is no stopping and you have to go to the end. Thank you."

Sala became Cardiff's record signing when his move from Nantes to the Premier League side was confirmed on Saturday.

Cardiff chairman Mehmet Dalman stated Sala had made his own travel arrangements, while Mark McKay – an agent involved in brokering the player's transfer – confirmed he had organised the flight but denied the missing aircraft was owned by him or his family.

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