Former Newcastle midfielder Cheick Tiote has died aged just 30 after collapsing during a training session for Chinese Super League side Beijing Enterprises Group FC.
His agent Emanuele Palladino said: “It is with deep sadness that I confirm that my client Cheick Tiote sadly passed away earlier today after collapsing in training with his club Beijing Enterprises.
“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.”
Tiote moved to the second-tier China team from St James’ Park last February after six years on Tyneside, having only featured three times for Toon in the season just gone.
He had played 11 times for Beijing since the move. The club have yet to make a statement on Tiote’s health.
Tiote’s former team-mate at Newcastle, Demba Ba, tweeted: “May Allah gives grant you jannah brother Tiote.”
😭😭😭 may Allah gives grant you jannah brother Tiote 😭😭😭
— Demba Ba (@dembabafoot) June 5, 2017
Argentinian midfielder Jonas Gutierrez, who also played with Tiote at Newcastle and battled back from testicular cancer, said: “Sad news. Always going to be remember our time together at #nufc. RIP my friend.”
Tiote moved to St James’ Park from FC Twente in 2010 and made 161 appearances for the Magpies, scoring once – the equaliser when Newcastle recovered from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 with Arsenal in 2011.
He earned 52 caps for Ivory Coast, playing at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, while also helping his country to the African Nations Cup final in 2012, where they lost to Zambia.
Tiote also played for Anderlecht and Roda JC and had made 17 appearances for second-tier Chinese club Beijing Enterprises before his death.
Newcastle tweeted their devastation at the news while Rafa Benitez paid his own tribute.
Benitez said: “It is with great sadness that I have this afternoon learned of Cheick’s death.
“In the 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.”