BEIJING Former Ivory Coast and Newcastle United midfielder Cheick Tiote collapsed and died at the age of 30 in training with his Chinese club Beijing Enterprises on Monday, his agent said on Monday.
Tiote, who made more than 150 appearances in seven seasons at Newcastle, was an African Nations Cup winner with the Ivorians in 2015, although he missed the final through injury, and he also played in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
"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,” agent Emanuele Palladino told Sky Sports.
"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."
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, team mates 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 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.
Tiote moved to Chinese second-tier side Beijing Enterprises in February.
Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, who played with Tiote at Anderlecht, said on twitter: “I am speechless and so incredibly sad. Cheick Tiote was one of the nicest and toughest team mates I have ever had. Rest in piece brother.”
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town and Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Ed Osmond)