Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock has said his final goodbye’s to Emiliano Sala as the footballer’s heartbroken family attend his funeral in Argentina.
The Premier League boss was among well-wishers who travelled to the town of Progreso near Santa Fe to pay their last respects ahead of the funeral.
He described a ‘really emotional day’ and said that he’d ‘never known anything like this’ in all his 40 years as a football manager.
Romina Sala, the footballer’s sister, cut a sombre figure as she wrapped herself in an oversized grey hoodie and ignored the mass of press outside her home, before being driven to her brother’s wake.
She is among the thousands paying their last respects to the new Cardiff City signing at the wake in the sports hall of his boyhood football club San Martin – some 334 miles northwest of the capital Buenos Aires.
Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock talks to journalists outside the Club Atletico y Social San Martin where soccer player Emiliano Sala’s wake is talking place in Progreso, Argentina
Among the mourners paying their respects today, were Cardiff manager Neil Warnock (pictured) along with the Welsh club’s chief executive Ken Choo and president Mehmet Dalman
Cardiff City chief executive Ken Choo was in attendance today for the wake of footballer Emiliano Sala, who died in an airplane crash across the English Channel in January
The heartbroken sister of Emiliano Sala is set to say her final farewell at the funeral of the tragic football star whose plane crashed down in the English Channel last month
Fighting back tears, Romina Sala cut a sombre figure as she wrapped herself in an oversized grey hoodie and ignored the mass of press outside her home in the town of Progreso in Argentina, before being driven to her brother’s wake
A man waits for the start of Argentina football player Emiliano Sala’s wake while holding a T-shirt of Club Atletico Social San Martin with the footballer’s name on it
Locals arrive at Sala’s boyhood club San Martin de Progreso to pay their respects during a vigil to the deceased footballer
Speaking after the wake, Neil Warnock described Emiliano Sala’s mum Mercedes as an ‘immense woman’ after comforting the footballer’s loved ones in the town where his new signing grew up.
The manager, who attended the wake alongside Cardiff City chief executive Ken Choo, said: ‘It’s been a very emotional morning.
‘I think Mercedes has been an immense woman this morning. Everyone she’s met has had memories of Emiliano and it’s brought tears to her eyes.
‘She’s an immense woman and I think the pride she has in her son has just shone through all day.’
He added, speaking to waiting reporters outside the sports hall at San Martin Club where the wake took place: ‘Things like this just don’t happen in football. I’ve been a manager nearly 40 years now and I’ve never known anything like this.
‘It’s something you hope never happens. We’ve had matches at the same time. People say things like, ‘He never played for you’, but he was my player.
‘The feelings I had. I chased him, I wanted him and he said ‘I will give you the goals that will keep you up in the Premier League.
‘I said, ‘I know you will.’ He was my kind of player. I’m getting goose pimples talking about it.’
Mirta Taffarel, aunt of Emiliano Sala, cries while waiting for his remains, outside a funeral home in Santa Fe
Mirta Taffarel (right), aunt of late football player Emiliano Sala, leaves after attending her nephew’s wake
Two employees of the burial house set up chandeliers at San Martin Club gymnasium ahead of Emiliano Sala’s funeral in Progreso
Yellow flowers are displayed in front of the portrait of Argentinian forward Emiliano Sala at the Beaujoire stadium in Nantes, France
A dog stands near a banner reading in Spanish ‘ Emi, you will never walk alone’ before the start of Argentina soccer player Emiliano Sala’s wake in Progreso, Argentina
Sala’s body – repatriated on Friday on a British Airways flight – was driven to the town early this morning from its overnight resting place at a funeral home in the provincial capital Santa Fe.
Describing how he would have performed at Cardiff City FC, Mr Warnock said: ‘I thought he would be a great asset for us. I don’t know a single person who had a bad word to say about him. His family were so proud of him.
‘It’s been a really emotional day but we wanted to come here and I’m pleased and proud we came.’
Former Nantes team mate Nicolas Pallois is also in Argentina for the ceremony.
Progeso mayor Julio Muller said a religious ceremony will be held at 2pm (local time) in Progresso and will return to the crematorium in Sante Fe at 3.30pm.
The final resting place of the 28-year-old’s ashes was not made clear, with some local speculation they would be buried in Progreso.
Most of the town’s 3,500 inhabitants are expected to say their final farewells to Progreso’s international ambassador.
Sala was being flown from Nantes, France to Cardiff after the club signed him for £15million when the plane he was travelling in crashed down.
His remains were discovered in the crashed Piper Malibu, on February 3, after a private search team found the plane. The official search for him and pilot David Ibbotson was called off after a week.
Sala was being flown from Nantes, France to Cardiff after the club signed him for £15million.
Progreso, where the wake of late Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala will take place in Santa Fe, Argentina on February 1
Police guard the entrance where the wake of late Argentine football player Emiliano Sala will take place
The wake to celebrate his life is being held at football club San Martin de Progreso, where Sala played as a boy.
His remains were flown into Ezeiza International Airport, Buenos Aires on Friday before being taken to his hometown of Progreso, where a vigil is to be held.
San Martin de Progreso posted an emotional tribute on Facebook, saying: ‘We are waiting for you…like the first day you left but this time to stay with us forever.
‘You went and you are an example for everyone. Eternally in our hearts.’
A vehicle carrying the remains of Emiliano Sala arrives in Santa Fe, Argentina
Missing footballer Emiliano Sala was confirmed dead after his body was brought up from the bottom of the English Channel
Nantes players, staff members and Nantes’ Bosnian head coach Vahid Halilhodzic (C-R) pay tribute to late Argentinian forward Emiliano Sala prior to the French L1 football match between Nantes and Nimes at the Beaujoire stadium today
Other attendees include Nantes defender Nicolas Pallois and general secretary Loic Morin.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is continuing to investigate how the plane crashed.
The Cardiff City footballer died from injuries to his head and body.
The remains of Pilot David Ibbotson have never been found and the wreckage of the plane may not be brought to the surface.
At present weather conditions have been deemed too bad to recover it from the seabed off Guernsey.
Thousands of pounds are being raised to fund a rescue mission.
Daughter Danielle told Good Morning Britain today that the family have raised £140,000 as they try to fund a search operation that will cost more than double that amount.
‘If you’ve got hope you shouldn’t give up,’ she said. ‘He wouldn’t stop searching for me.’
Pilot David Ibbotson (pictured with his wife, Nora) was carrying the Cardiff City star to his new club when the crash occurred
Mr Ibbotson’s wife, Nora, told the show that they won’t be able to grieve properly until his body is brought home.
‘We do know he’s gone but we want him back,’ she said. ‘We know he is dead but we just want him home. He’s been a brilliant husband he’s supported us all he was our supporter he was our rock. We feel like he’s just out there on his own at the moment.
‘I know conditions aren’t brilliant and it’s a dangerous sea but we just need to have that last look.’
Brendan Allen, acting senior coroner for Dorset, adjourned proceedings in Bournemouth until November 6 for a pre-inquest review.
He told the hearing this was because an Air Accidents Investigation Branch inquiry into the tragedy could take between six months and a year.
Cardiff City star Sala was identified by his fingerprints after the tragic crash which happened after his record £15million signing to the Welsh club from Nantes in France.