The former Newcastle United midfielder Cheick Tioté has died after reportedly suffering a heart attack while training with his club in China.
The Ivory Coast international joined the Chinese League One side Beijing Enterprises in January having spent seven years at St James’ Park. The 30-year-old was reported to have collapsed at the training ground on Monday and been taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“I can confirm that my client Cheick Tioté sadly passed away today after collapsing in training with his club Beijing Enterprises,” his agent, Emanuele Palladino, said in a statement. “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.”
A statement from Beijing Enterprises added: “During a routine training session at 6pm today, Ivory Coast player Cheick Tioté suddenly fainted and the club immediately rushed him to hospital, but unfortunately efforts to save him failed and he passed away at 7pm. The player’s relatives have been informed. Beijing Enterprises football club expresses its deep sorrow and profound condolences for Mr Tioté’s untimely death.”
It is understood that Tioté has been living in China on his own since leaving the north-east in January and his wife Madah is expecting their third child this week. His former manager at Newcastle, Alan Pardew, said he was devastated by the news.
“From the moment I arrived at Newcastle Cheick was a wonderful presence around the dressing room and his performances on the field often defied belief,” said Pardew. “There were days when he must have covered every blade of grass on a football field.
“None of us will ever forget that incredible day when our Newcastle team came from 4-0 down to draw an unbelievable Premier League game against Arsenal, with Cheick’s incredible goal. I loved him. He was everything that you want in a Newcastle player. Life is not fair sometimes and I will remember Cheick Tioté as a giant of a midfielder whom I loved to manage.”
His former Newcastle team-mate Demba Ba, who had a spell in China but now plays for the Turkish club Besiktas, was among the first to offer his condolences. “May Allah gives grant you jannah brother Tiote,” he tweeted.
Newcastle released a statement which read: “We are devastated to have learnt of the tragic passing of Cheick Tioté 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.”
The Newcastle manager, Rafa Benítez, said: “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.”
“Cheick was one of the best we had in terms of his attitude,” the former Newcastle player Peter Beardsley told BBC Radio 5 live. “He had a wicked sense of humour, he was top class and he will certainly be missed in this city.”
Beardsley, who is still on the staff at Newcastle, added: “He was flat out every day in training and was a brilliant example to the kids at our club. He loved a tackle – he wasn’t horrible, but very aggressive. Every time he saw the ball he went for it.”
On Tiote’s goal against Arsenal, Beardsley added: “It was an unbelievable volley and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person. I can still see him running up the end of the pitch. He must have run 70 metres to celebrate with the fans.”
Tioté began his career in his homeland with Bibo before moving to Anderlecht as a teenager. He also played under Steve McClaren at Twente in the Netherlands before joining Newcastle in 2010 for £3.5m, going on to make more than 150 appearances.
“Goodnight brother, You will be missed. My heart goes out to his family. Gone too soon #RIPcheiktiote,” wrote his former Newcastle team-mate Papiss Cissé.
Tioté won 52 caps for Ivory Coast and played in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
A statement from the Professional Footballers’ Association read: “Desperately sad news that Cheick Tioté has passed away, aged just 30. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and former team-mates.”