Neil Warnock accepts Cardiff have to move on after the discovery of Emiliano Sala’s body, which he says has brought “peace and comfort” to the Argentinian striker’s family.
Sala’s body was formally identified by the Dorset coroner on Thursday night, a day after it was recovered from the underwater wreckage in the English Channel.
The flight carrying Sala from Nantes to Cardiff following his record £15million transfer to the Premier League club two days earlier crashed into the sea near Alderney on January 21. Pilot David Ibbotson remains missing.
“While everybody expects the worst, when it happens (receiving the news that Sala’s body had been identified), and I got a phone call last night, it was strange,” Cardiff manager Warnock said.
“It brings the family peace and offers them comfort – that’s what (Warnock’s wife) Sharon said from the start.
“You don’t ever forget things like this, and we all have things like this happen in our lifetime.
“You just have to move on, and put things at the back of your mind.
“There are certain aspects of that for me, meeting Emiliano, but the players have grasped that we have to move on and now we’ve got 13 cup finals.”
Cardiff owner Vincent Tan expressed the condolences of the club to Sala’s family and said Cardiff would continue to work with the Air Accidents Investigation Branch to determine the cause of the crash.
Tan said in a statement: “I wish to express my deepest heartfelt condolences to the family of Emiliano Sala for their loss. May Emiliano’s soul rest in peace. I am personally very sad over this incident. This fine young man would have been very happy and successful at Cardiff City where he would have made a new home and many friends.
“Cardiff City will continue to work with the AAIB and investigators to find out how the crash happened and to assist Emiliano’s family. We have offered to them to arrange to take Emiliano back to rest with his family in Argentina. Even though he will be there his soul will always be in our hearts. We feel a tremendous loss but the biggest loss is borne by Sala’s family.
“May Sala’s soul rest in peace.”
The Welsh club have asked the Premier League to again wear commemorative shirts at Southampton on Saturday.
Last weekend’s 2-0 win against Bournemouth saw Cardiff play in shirts with a yellow daffodil on them, the national emblem of Wales and the colour of Sala’s former club Nantes.
Both Southampton and Cardiff are expected to wear black armbands at St Mary’s and a minute’s silence will be observed before kick-off.
“I always thought he was a scruffy type of player who would score 10 to 15 goals every year at the top level,” Warnock said in tribute to the 28-year-old, who played for Bordeaux before joining Nantes in 2015.
“He was a Neil Warnock type of player. Someone who works hard as a team player, but can also do something special. He wasn’t a young kid, he was at his prime, but he knew he had things to prove.
“He’d been in a comfort zone in France, but had improved every few years and was ready to make that step up.
“I thought he could score goals in the Premier League and he had all the ingredients to mix into our dressing room.”
Nantes and Cardiff are involved in a dispute over the Sala transfer, with the French club having demanded that the first £5.27million instalment be paid within the next week.
Cardiff have withheld the first scheduled payment until they have clarified the facts surrounding the documentation of the transfer.
“The least of my worries is the record signing, finance does not come into it from my point of view,” Warnock said.
“I couldn’t be more grateful to Ken (Choo, chief executive) and Mehmet (Dalman, chairman), they are keeping everything away from me.
“Off the field, they are dealing with all that, and that’s the way to move forward.
“I’ve got enough on my plate dealing with the football on the field.”