The 30-year-old former Newcastle United midfielder, Cheick Tiote, has died after collapsing during training in China, a spokesman for the player has announced.
The Cote d’Ivoire international spent seven years at the Tyneside club, making 150 appearances, including three last season.
He joined Chinese second-tier side, Beijing Enterprises, in February.
“It is with deep sadness I confirm that Cheick Tiote sadly passed away earlier today after collapsing in training,” said spokesman Emanuele Palladino.
“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.”
Born in Cote d’Ivoire, Tiote was part of the Ivorian squad that won the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.
He began his professional career in Belgium with Anderlecht in 2005 before moving to Dutch side FC Twente, where he made 86 appearances and won the Eredivisie league title in the 2009-10 season under manager Steve McClaren.
Tiote, a defensive midfielder, then signed for Newcastle in 2010 for £3.5m.
In 2011, he scored a memorable goal as Newcastle United came back from 4-0 down to draw with Arsenal in the Premier League.
He joined Beijing Enterprises for an undisclosed fee in February 2017.
A statement from 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, team-mates and everyone connected with the clubs he represented.”
Newcastle manager Rafa Benitz 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,” Africa Review reports.
Fans and clubs have taken to the social media to express condolences.
Premier League said: “ Former @NUFC midfielder Cheick Tiote has died after collapsing in training with Chinese club Beijing Enterprise.’’
Moh Haider said: “RIP Cheick Tiote. You silenced Arsenal fans in 2011 with that goal, but today you’ve silenced all football fans with your early departure.’’
“Rest in peace Cheick Tioté,’’ said Badr Zaki and explained that “his words hours before he died: “May god make us big in heaven not in this life.”
Arsenal FC also tweeted: “The thoughts of everyone at Arsenal are with the loved ones of Cheick Tiote. May he rest in peace.’’
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