Tributes from the world of football have been pouring in for former Newcastle midfielder Cheick Tiote, who has died after collapsing in training with his Chinese club.
Thirty-year-old Tiote ended a six-and-a-half-year stay on Tyneside in February by moving to China after finding first-team opportunities under manager Rafael Benitez limited.
Benitez led the tributes to Tiote, hailing the Ivorian’s professionalism and dedication in the few months they worked together.
The Spaniard said on Newcastle’s official website: “It is with great sadness that I have 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.”
The player’s spokesman Emanuele Palladino confirmed the news in a statement yesterday afternoon, saying: “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.
“We cannot say any more at the moment and we request his family’s privacy be respected at this difficult time. We ask for all your prayers.”
A statement from Newcastle United 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.”
Former Newcastle captain Alan Shearer tweeted: “Devastating news of the death of Cheick Tiote. RIP.”
Alan Pardew, Tiote’s manager for much of his spell in England, said: “I’m devastated to hear the news about my former player and friend Cheick Tiote.
“Cheick was a wonderful presence around the dressing room and his performances on the field often defied belief.
“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.”
Tiote began his career with Belgian club Anderlecht in 2005 before switching to FC Twente, where he made 86 appearances and won the Eredivisie title in the 2009-10 season.
He moved to St James’ Park in summer 2010 for about £3.5million.
Tiote captained United at the start of the 2013-14 campaign, but injuries and a loss of form hindered his progress.
He was often linked with a move, but it was not until four months ago that he departed to China League One club Beijing Enterprises, where he made 17 appearances before his death.He also earned 52 caps for Ivory Coast.
Former Newcastle team-mates paid tribute on Twitter, with ex-Magpies goalkeeper Steve Harper writing: “Gutted to hear the awful news about my former teammate Cheik Tiote today. Thoughts with his friends and family.”
Jonas Gutierrez posted: “Sad news. Always going to be remember our time together at #nufc RIP my friend.”
Shay Given wrote: “Shocked & saddened to hear of the passing of Cheick Tiote, I pass on my condolences to his friends & family, way too young.”
Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul said: “Deeply sad to hear the news about Cheick.. One of my favourite teammates.. My thoughts are with his family.”
Siem de Jong said: “Terrible news, R.I.P. Tiote. Always enjoyed sitting next to you in the dressing room my friend,” while Papiss Cisse added: “Goodnight brother, You will be missed. My heart goes out to his family. Gone too soon.”
Readers of the Gazette’s website and Facebook page were quick to pay their respects.
Geordie sandancer commented: “Sad news. Great solid player, never forget the screamer against Arsenal. RIP Mr T.”
Darryl Nellist added: “Very shocked #RIPTiote”