Emiliano Sala's body returns to Argentina ahead of funeral

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(Photo: Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images)

(CNN) —  Emiliano Sala is to be flown back to Argentina Friday ahead of the football player's funeral at the weekend.

The 28-year-old died after his plane crashed over the English Channel last month, as he made his way to new club Cardiff.

The Argentine striker had joined the Welsh side for a reported £15 million ($19.3 million) from French side Nantes and was heading to Wales after saying farewell to his former teammates.

His body is expected to arrive at Ezeiza International Airport, Buenos Aires, Friday before being taken to his hometown of Progreso, where a vigil is to be held in the gymnasium near to the striker's youth-club headquarters.

READ: Emiliano Sala -- Fans detained after 'mocking' death with airplane gestures during game

Sala began his football career at San Martin de Progreso before leaving to forge a professional career at 15.

The club posted a message on social media, writing: "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."

The Argentine's family members have already arrived ahead of the ceremony.

Cardiff manager Neil Warnock and chief executive Ken Choo also will reportedly attend Sala's funeral on Saturday, while Nantes defender Nicolas Pallois and the Ligue 1 club's general secretary Loic Morin will represent the French team.

Sala's body was recovered from wreckage of the plane last week, after a private search for the missing soccer star and the plane's pilot David Ibbotson was commissioned by his family -- financed by a crowdfunding campaign.

READ: As Emiliano Sala's family grieves his transfer provides glimpse into football's 'arms race'

His family thanked the public after authorities identified the striker's body.

"We would like to thank you for all your signs of affection and support in what is the most painful time of our lives," read a family statement.

"We ask you to respect our grief in these difficult times, and to keep Emi in your prayers and thoughts."

Sala and the 59-year-old Ibbotson were flying in the single-turbine aircraft from Nantes, northern France, to the Welsh capital of Cardiff, when it disappeared from radar near the Channel Islands on January 21.

Pilot Ibbotson is presumed dead, though his body has not yet been recovered.

This story was first published on CNN.com, "Emiliano Sala's body returns to Argentina ahead of funeral."