BEIJING Former Ivory Coast international Cheick Tiote died in hospital on Monday after collapsing during a training session, his Chinese club Beijing Enterprises said.
The Chinese second flight club confirmed his death at the age of 30 on its Weibo social media account, saying the former Twente Enschede and Newcastle United midfielder had "fainted without any warning" during training.
"He was rushed to hospital immediately. However, all revival measures proved ineffective and he died around 7pm on June 5, 2017. The club has already contacted his family," it read.
"Since joining the team, he had made an outstanding contribution to the club and won praise from the club, the coaching team and his team mates with his superb skills and professionalism.
"Beijing BG football club expresses our deepest sorrow following Mr Tiote's passing."
Former team mates and managers took to social media to mourn the loss of the latest high-profile African player to have collapsed and died while playing football.
Newcastle United, where Tiote played for seven years before moving to China, said the club was "devastated" at the news, while manager Rafa Benitez spoke of his "sadness" at the death of "a true professional ... and above all, a great man".
Former England manager Steve McLaren, who coached Tiote at Twente and Newcastle, spoke of Tiote's competitiveness.
"I knew him first as a young player at Twente. He was the toughest player I've ever seen," he told the BBC.
"On the field and in training he was such a competitor. He wanted to win every game, kick every player and win every tackle.
"He was a winner. I just can't believe it. Some days we would have to pull him out of training because he was such a ferocious competitor, such a winner. He was a warrior and could play too."
Tiote grew up playing football barefoot on the streets of his hometown of Yamoussoukro before moving to Europe with Belgian club Anderlecht in 2005.
He moved to Twente in 2008 and was part of the side which won the Eredivisie title in 2010. He played at the 2010 and 2014 World Cup and was a member of the Ivory Coast squad which won the 2015 African Cup of Nations.
A combative defensive midfielder, Tiote's more than 130 appearances for Newcastle featured many yellow cards but only one goal.
It was a spectacular effort, though, a left-footed volley from well outside the penalty area two minutes from time which secured Newcastle's comeback from 4-0 down to secure a 4-4 draw against Arsenal in February 2011.
Tiote's move to Beijing earlier this year was his second attempt to cash in on the riches on offer in the Chinese Super League after holding talks with Shanghai Shenhua in 2016.
McLaren said Tiote's motivation was to provide for an extended family which, he told one interviewer, included nine brothers and sisters.
"It was his dream to play in China and I was so delighted for him when it happened," McLaren added.
"He loved playing football to look after his family. All the relatives, uncles, aunts, grandparents, they all relied on him to look after them."
(Reporting by Fang Cheng and Tony Munroe, writing by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Frank Pingue)