Former Newcastle United midfielder Cheick Tiote has died suddenly at the age 30. A spokesman confirmed that the former Ivory Coast international, who had been playing for Beijing Enterprises Group FC in the second tier of Chinese football, had collapsed at a training session on Monday (5 June). He was later pronounced dead.
"It is with deep sadness that I can confirm that my client Cheick Tiote sadly passed away earlier today after collapsing in training with his club Beijing Enterprises," the player's representative told the BBC. "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 began his professional career with Belgian giants Anderlecht in 2005 and later spent a season on loan at Roda JC before completing a permanent move to fellow Eredivisie outfit FC Twente, where he won a Dutch title under the stewardship of Steve McClaren.
Newcastle signed Tiote for a reported £3.5m (€4m) fee in August 2010 and he went onto make more than 150 appearances, developing a reputation as a midfield enforcer and memorably netting a stunning late equaliser in a remarkable 4-4 draw with Arsenal at St James' Park in February 2011. It was his only goal for the club.
Tiote featured once in the Championship under Rafael Benitez last term and twice in the FA Cup before agreeing to join Beijing Enterprises Group in February, four months before the end of his contract on Tyneside.
In a statement, Newcastle said: "We are devastated to have learnt of the tragic passing of Cheick Tiote at the age of just 30. The thoughts of everyone at Newcastle United are with Cheick's family, friends, teammates and everyone connected with the clubs he represented."
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."
Yamoussoukro-born Tiote also earned 52 caps for his native Ivory Coast and was part of the squad that ended a 23-year wait for a second Africa Cup of Nations title in Equatorial Guinea in 2015. He also played in both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
The world of football has been quick to pay tribute to Tiote, including several of his former clubs and teammates.