LONDON (AP) — Cheick Tiote, a combative midfielder who played in the English Premier League for Newcastle and at the World Cup with Ivory Coast, has died after collapsing in training with his new Chinese team. He was 30.
Tiote was four months into a new career at Bejiing Enterprises when his death was announced on Monday by agent Emanuele Palladino.
"We cannot say any more at the moment and we request that his family's privacy be respected at this difficult time," Palladino said. "We ask for all your prayers."
Tiote moved to Newcastle from FC Twente in 2010 and made 161 appearances, scoring once — a memorable equalizer in 2011 when his team recovered from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 with Arsenal.
Rafa Benitez, Tiote's former manager at Newcastle, paid tribute to his character.
"In all the time that I have known him, he was a true professional, dedicated and, above all, a great man," Benitez said. "Our hearts go out to his family and friends at such a sad time."?
Tiote started playing soccer on the streets of Abidjan in Ivory Coast at the age of 10.
"I played barefoot," he said in 2010. "With bare feet I actually had better contact with the ball, and it helped me develop."
Tiote's talent was spotted by Anderlecht officials, who signed him in 2005 on a three-year contract.
"You come over to Europe and you have everything - you are given everything," Tiote said in a 2011 interview with Newcastle's Evening Chronicle newspaper. "The ball, the kits . . . you have everything. In Africa you have to be strong, so strong mentally, to make it.
"You need to believe in yourself to go forward. Playing in that environment you need to believe in yourself."
Tiote's remarkable trajectory took him into a Champions League campaign with Anderlecht, but injuries hampered his progress at the Dutch club.
Tiote moved in 2008 across the Netherlands to FC Twente, linking up with former Middlesbrough and England coach Steve McClaren.
Tiote's successful stint at Twente coincided with the club winning their first Dutch title in 2010. Tiote also made his international breakthrough and featured in all the Ivory Coast's World Cup games in South Africa in 2010.
His reputation as a combative, ball-playing midfielder attracted the attention of Newcastle and he moved to the northeast English club in 2010 for 3.5 million pounds.
Despite several disciplinary issues, including a sending-off in the 2012 northeast derby against Sunderland for a late challenge on Steven Fletcher, Tiote impressed.
He stepped in to captain Newcastle for the first time in 2013, but he became increasingly hindered by knee and hamstring injuries.
Having found himself increasingly on the margins of the first team, Tiote left Newcastle in February to sign for Beijing Enterprises.
"Cheick Tiote was one of the nicest and toughest teammates I have ever had," tweeted Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, who played with Tiote at Anderlecht.