Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala was on a light aircraft that disappeared from radar in the English Channel last night, French police have confirmed.
Air Traffic Control said the aircraft was travelling from Nantes in western France to Cardiff when it went missing.
An official involved in the search has cast doubt on whether either of the two passengers on the aircraft will have survived a crash.
“After all this time the weather’s quite cold, the water is very cold out there… I am not expecting anyone to be alive,” Channel Islands Air Search chief officer John Fitzgerald told The Associated Press.
“I don’t think the coastguard are either. We just don’t know how it disappeared at the end of yesterday.”
He said the plane “just completely vanished. There was no radio conversation”.
Concerns were raised when the 28-year-old Cardiff forward failed to respond to messages on social media after reports he had been travelling to the UK on Monday.
The Argentinian, who had played in France since 2012, made club history when he was bought for a record fee of £18m on a three-and-a-half year deal from Nantes at the weekend.
In one of his last social media posts, he shared a photo with his former teammates, writing “Ciao” and adding heart emojis.
One of his former teammates had taken him to the airport for his flight and Nantes have postponed their Wednesday night French Cup game.
Cardiff City CEO Ken Choo said: “We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing. We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team.
“Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation.
“We made the decision first thing this morning to call off training with the thoughts of the squad, management staff and the entire Club with Emiliano and the pilot.
“All of us at Cardiff City FC would like to thank our fans, and the entire footballing family for their support at this difficult time.
“We continue to pray for positive news.”
Nantes president Waldemar Kita told French news channel CNews that Sala was well liked at the club, saying: “He’s a polite, nice, adorable boy, adored by everyone. He was always very respectable, very courteous.
“I think of his family and all of his friends. The rest we do not know yet.”
Keith Morgan, Cardiff City supporters trust, told Sky News there was a lot of shock and sympathy, noting that at times like this “football becomes unimportant”.
Search efforts were launched at 8.50pm to scour an area north of Alderney for the Piper Malibu plane which left Jersey air traffic control’s radar approximately 15 miles north of Guernsey.
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.
Police said the aircraft departed Nantes at 7.15pm for Cardiff and was flying at 5000 feet. They added that the aircraft requested descent on passing Guernsey, and that Jersey air traffic control lost contact while the plane was at 2300 feet.
The rescue mission was forced to stop at 2am because of poor weather, sea and visibility conditions. It resumed at 8am.
Guernsey Police issued an update on Tuesday lunchtime, saying: “So far over 1,000sq miles have been searched by a total of five aircraft and two lifeboats. It is being coordinated by the Joint Emergency Services Control Centre.
“There has been no trace of the aircraft.
“The search is continuing.”
HM Coastguard said the incident was not in the UK search and rescue area, although it confirmed it had sent two helicopters to help.