Emiliano Sala’s sister has led tributes to her brother as a body recovered from the wreckage of a plane in the English Channel was confirmed to be the missing footballer.

Officers said the families of the 28-year-old Cardiff City striker and missing pilot David Ibbotson, 59, have been informed of the development and will “continue to be supported by specially-trained family liaison officers”.

The pair went missing on 21 January after the plane they were travelling in from Nantes to Cardiff crashed 21 miles (34km) off the coast of Guernsey.

Dorset Police said they would continue to support the coroner’s investigation into the circumstances of the crash.

Dave Ibbotson
Image: David Ibbotson was flying the plane

The footballer’s sister Romina posted an image of the striker on Instagram and wrote: “Your soul in my soul will shine forever, thus illuminating the time of my existence. I love you, tito.”

Cardiff City offered their “most heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of Emiliano”.

“He and David will forever remain in our thoughts,” a spokesman added.

More from Emiliano Sala

Former England international and captain Wayne Rooney also paid his respects on Twitter.

Football clubs, including Barcelona, Porto and Sevilla, have been tweeting photos and tributes to the forward.

The formal identification comes after remotely operated vehicles in “challenging conditions” were used to recover the body from the water “in as dignified a way as possible”, according to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

A stretcher carrying a body is removed from the Geo Ocean III specialist search vessel docked in Portland, Dorset
Image: A stretcher carrying a body was removed from the Geo Ocean III search vessel in Dorset

Images earlier showed an ambulance bringing the body on shore from a ship in Portland, Dorset.

Katerina Vittozzi, in Portland for Sky News, said: “The AAIB has gathered a huge amount of video evidence, so they do have enough to start to piece together what happened in the final moments before the plane came down.

“The vessel only got into the harbour after 9am, though the mission happened overnight. They have taken their time over this.”

The Geo Ocean III specialist search vessel docked in Portland, Dorset which has brought back the body recovered from the wreckage of the plane
Image: Privately funded search teams were deployed to find the plane wreckage

Poor weather conditions stopped efforts to recover the aircraft, which remains 67m (220ft) under water.

An AAIB spokesman said bad weather was forecast “for the foreseeable future and so the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close”.

The investigators will publish their interim report within a month and footage captured of the wreckage is expected to provide “valuable evidence”, it added.

The plane was discovered on Sunday by marine recovery specialists who were hired thanks to a crowdfunding appeal launched after the official search was called off.

Tragic end to search for footballer and pilot
David Mearns worked with Emiliano Sala's family to launch a private search for the plane he went missing in
Image: David Mearns worked with Sala’s family to launch a private search

Sala had signed for Cardiff City from French club Nantes in a £15m deal two days before the plane disappeared.

Sky sources say Nantes have now started legal action against Cardiff, asking for the first payment of the transfer fee, which is understood to be more than £5m.

Cardiff have not yet paid any of the fee – a record for the club – for the Argentinian striker and privately believe questions first need answering about the ownership of the Piper Malibu aircraft and other issues.

Cardiff players and fans pay tribute to Sala
Image: Cardiff players and fans pay tribute to Sala

The plane had requested to descend before it lost contact with Jersey air traffic control.

An official search operation was called off on 24 January after Guernsey’s harbour master David Barker said the chances of survival following such a long period were “extremely remote”.

Nantes fans pay tribute to Sala
Image: Nantes fans pay tribute to Sala
Tributes to Sala outside La Beaujoire stadium in Nantes
Image: Flowers outside La Beaujoire stadium in Nantes

The remains of the aircraft were tracked down by a team co-ordinated by ocean scientist David Mearns, who has located some of the most elusive wrecks in the world.

Mr Mearns – known as the “Shipwreck Hunter” – and his team located the aircraft within two hours of commencing their search.

Read the full story here