Former Ivory Coast and Newcastle United midfielder Cheick Tiote has died while training with his Chinese club, Beijing Enterprises.
His agent Emanuele Palladino has confirmed the 30-year-old collapsing in training.
“We cannot say any more at the moment and we request that his family’s privacy be respected at this difficult time. We ask for all your prayers,” Palladino told Sky Sports.
Tiote played for English club Newcastle United for seven years before moving to China in February.
He was an African Nations Cup winner with the Ivorians in 2015 although he missed the final through injury and he played in the 2010 and 21014 World Cups.
There has not been any comment from his current club but Newcastle issued a statement on their website (www.nufc.co.uk).
“We are devastated to have learnt of the tragic passing of Cheick Tiote at the age of just 30,“ the newly promoted Premier League club said.
“The thoughts of everyone at Newcastle United are with Cheick’s family, friends, teammates and everyone connected with the clubs he represented.”
Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez added: “It is with great sadness that I have this afternoon learned of Cheick’s death.
“In all the time that I have known him, he was a true professional, dedicated and above all, a great man. Our hearts go out to his family and friends at such a sad time.”
Born in Yamoussoukro, Tiote moved to Belgium as a teenager after being scouted by Anderlecht for whom he made his debut in the Champions League in 2005.
He spent a season at Roda JC Kerkrade on loan and later moved to another Dutch club FC Twente where he won the 2009-10 Eredivisie title under former England manager Steve McLaren.
The defensive midfielder was sold by Twente to Newcastle for 3.5 million pounds ($4.52 million) in 2010 and cemented his place in club folklore with a long-range equaliser in the 4-4 Premier League draw with Arsenal at St James’ Park in Feb. 2011.
Several of his former clubs and team-mates have taken to Twitter to express their shock and sadness.
We’ll never forget you, Cheick. ⚫️⚪️ pic.twitter.com/c8aO6EyW5w— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) June 5, 2017
NUFC NEWS (@NUFC_NEWS_UK) June 5, 2017
Absolutely heart-breaking news that Cheick Tioté‘s wife is reportedly expecting a baby this week, as per
ed_aarons</a>.<br><br>Life truly is unfair 😢 <a href="https://t.co/1vl6wmh9BE">pic.twitter.com/1vl6wmh9BE</a></p>— SPORF (Sporf) June 5, 2017
Completely devastated and saddened by the death of cheick tiote…why now Bro…Rest Well pic.twitter.com/ak8×2iAH7F— ASAMOAH GYAN (@ASAMOAH_GYAN3) June 5, 2017