TRIBUTES have been paid to Cheick Tioté, following the sudden death of the former Newcastle United midfielder, aged 30.

Less than four months after his six-year spell on Tyneside came to an end, Tiote, described by his fellow professionals as “an incredible competitor” collapsed during training with Beijing Enterprises.

He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead, with reports suggesting he suffered a suspected heart attack.

His wife, Madah, is expecting their third child this week.

The sudden death of the player who secured a £3.5m switch to Newcastle in 2010 has rocked everyone associated with the Tyneside club. His stay there came to an end in February when he moved to play for the Chinese League One club.

Tiote soon became a favourite with the Newcastle fans for his tough-tackling and warrior-like approach to matches. His only goal for Newcastle was the sensational equaliser against Arsenal in 2011.

A statement from Newcastle, for whom Tiote made 156 appearances, 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, teammates and everyone connected with the clubs he represented.

“The Ivory Coast midfielder, who made more than 150 appearances for the Magpies between 2010 and 2017, was training with his current club, Bejiing Enterprises, on Monday when he collapsed.

“He was taken to hospital but sadly passed away. Cheick cemented his place in Newcastle folklore with his dramatic equaliser in the 4-4 draw against Arsenal in February 2011.”

The Ivorian played 52 times for his country.

Belgium and Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany said: “Cheick Tioté was one of the nicest and toughest teammates I have ever had.”

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez added: “In all the time that I have known him, he was a true professional, dedicated and above all, a great man.”

Ex-Newcastle striker Alan Shearer Tweeted: “Devastating news of the death of Cheick Tiote.” Television duo Ant and Dec tweeted: “Shockingly sad news. RIP Cheick Tiote. Thanks for everything. The Geordies will never forget you.”