The family of Emiliano Sala grieved on Friday after British authorities formally identified his body as the one recovered from the submerged wreckage of a plane that went down in the English Channel more than two weeks ago.
"We can now begin to mourn our son and our brother," the Argentine striker's family said in a statement. "We would like to thank you for all of your signs of affection and support in the most painful time of our life. To see everyone doing everything possible to join us in the search has been a precious help to us."
Argentine footballing idols Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta also paid tribute to Sala, 28.
The Premier League player's former French club, Nantes, said it was retiring the jersey with Sala's number nine on it. All Ligue 1 and 2 matches in France this weekend will be preceded by a minute of applause for him.
Nantes said "Emiliano will always be among the legends who have written the great history of Nantes We have lost a friend, a talented player, an exemplary teammate."
The light aircraft carrying Sala from Nantes to his new team disappeared near the British island of Guernsey on January 21. The only other person on board was the aircraft's 59-year-old pilot David Ibbotson, who has not been found.
The player's body was first spotted by British rescuers using a remotely operated underwater vehicle on Sunday, close to where the plane vanished from radar. Investigators recovered the body on Wednesday and transported it to the Isle of Portland in southern England. From there it was taken to Bournemouth where it was formally identified.
Investigators said they were abandoning plans to lift the plane wreckage out of the water because of bad weather.
In Cardiff, club manager Neil Warnock said Southampton and Cardiff City players would wear black armbands in their Premier League match on Saturday and a minute's silence would be observed before kick-off.
"When something like this happens it brings all the football family together," he said.
Sala's sister Romina wrote on her Instagram account: "Your soul in my soul will shine forever."
- Crowdfunded search -
The plane, a Piper PA-46 Malibu, vanished from radar around 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Guernsey.The discovery of two seat cushions on the French coast last week revealed that the plane had broken apart.
Initial search operations were suspended in the days after it went missing but a crowdfunding effort supported by thousands of donations, including from stars such as Lionel Messi, helped launch a private search.
Without the fundraising effort "I don't think anybody would have searched for the plane," shipwreck hunter David Mearns, who was hired by the family, told AFP.
The plane wreckage was spotted by a ship hired by the family. Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) then co-ordinated the recovery.