Tributes have flooded in for Cheick Tiote after the former Newcastle star died suddenly from a heart attack days before his wife is due to give birth.
The 30-year-old Ivory Coast midfielder collapsed during a training session with Chinese second division outfit Beijing Enterprises on 5 June.
Tiote was rushed to hospital at 6pm local time but pronounced dead around an hour later.
He only quit English football for China in January. His devastated wife Madah is expecting their third child this week.
His agent Emanuele Palladino confirmed the news on Monday afternoon, saying: “I confirm that my client Cheick Tiote passed away today after collapsing in training with his club.
Tiote begun his pro career in Belgium with Anderlecht, a period which included a loan spell with Roda JC.
From there he moved to FC Twente in the Netherlands, establishing himself as an effective defensive midfielder, making 86 appearances for the Dutch side.
He moved to the Premier League to join Newcastle in 2010 and made over 150 appearances for the Toon before leaving for China in February this year.
Tiote was plying his trade in the second tier in China for Beijing Enterprises. He had played 17 times for the club before his death.
Demba Ba, Tiote’s former teammate at Newcastle, was among the first to tweet his respects.
“May Allah gives grant you jannah brother Tiote,” the striker posted.
Jonas Gutierrez also tweeted a tribute, saying: “Very said to hear about the pass away of Tiote. RIP my friend. #nufc.”
Newcastle later passed on their condolences, posting: “We are devastated to have learnt of the tragic passing of former Newcastle United midfielder Cheick Tioté in China today.”
Current Toon boss Rafa Benitez added: “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.”
Tiote is best known for his seven-year spell at Newcastle having arrived in the north east in August 2010 for just £3.5million.
Upon his arrival, he said: “It’s a great thrill for me to be joining such a famous club as Newcastle United.”
Rafa Benitez leads tributes for Cheick Tiote as former Newcastle midfielder dies, aged 30, in China
His only goal was a memorable one, the highlight of one of the most incredible games in Premier League history.
The Magpies trailed Arsenal 4-0 at half-time in February 2011, with Tiote’s spectacular volley making it 4-4 and sealing a point at St James’ Park.
A pal of Tiote, Yusuf Abubakar Tumi, revealed a WhatsApp exchange he had enjoyed with the Ivory Coast international earlier in the day.
Tumi and Tiote (Photo: Instagram/iamuzayap)
The pair sent messages to each other regarding buying watches and praising Allah.
Tiote made 52 appearances for the Ivory Coast and was part of the country’s ‘golden generation’ .
He was part of the side that triumphed in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations final in a penalty shootout against Ghana.