Body pulled from underwater wreckage of plane carrying Argentine soccer star

Authorities recover a body from the seabed wreckage of a plane that was carrying soccer player Emiliano Sala and his pilot.

Authorities have not confirmed whether the body is that of Emiliano Sala or the pilot

Argentine soccer player Emiliano Sala was aboard a small passenger plane that went missing over the English Channel last month. (David Vincent/Associated Press)

A body has been recovered from the wreckage of the plane that was carrying Argentina-born professional soccer player Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in Britain said late Wednesday.

The agency did not disclose the identity of the body.

Sala, 28, had been en route from Nantes, France on Jan. 21 to make his debut for Welsh Premier League team Cardiff City when the plane disappeared over the English Channel.

The wreckage was found on Sunday following a privately funded underwater search. 

The AAIB says the body was recovered in "challenging conditions" with the "operation was carried out in as dignified a way as possible and the families were kept informed of progress."

Sala had agreed to join Cardiff for a club-record fee of 15 million pounds (about $26 million Cdn) from French Ligue 1 club Nantes. He and the pilot are believed to have died as the single-engined Piper Malibu crashed into the sea.

The Geo Ocean III specialist search vessel off the coast of Alderney in the English Channel has been involved in the search for Sala and his pilot. (Jon Le Ray@jonnersleray/Associated Press)

On Saturday at Cardiff's home Premier League match against Bournemouth, the Cardiff players held up a T-shirt bearing the image of Sala, who never played a game for the club, after the team scored in the fifth minute.

Fans were handed daffodils as they entered the Cardiff City Stadium. In the 28th minute, a round of applause swelled around the stadium as fans sang Sala's name.

On Jan. 30, Nantes payed tribute to their former player. Referee Frank Schneider stopped play in the Ligue 1 match against Saint-Étienne for a minute of applause during which Nantes coach Vahid Halilhodzic was in tears.