The body of former Newcastle United footballer Christian Atsu has been found under the rubble of the building where he lived in Turkey, his agent has said.
The Ghanaian, who played for Antakya side Hatayspor, had been misidentified and falsely reported as hospitalised “with injuries” last week following the earthquake which has killed more than 45,000 people.
Atsu’s agent, Nana Sechere, tweeted this morning: “It is with the heaviest of hearts that I have to announce to all well wishers that sadly Christian Atsu’s body was recovered this morning. My deepest condolences go to his family and loved ones.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their prayers and support.
“I ask that whilst we make the necessary arrangements, that everyone would please respect the privacy of the family during this very difficult time.”
Atsu spent eight years signed to Premier League clubs including Chelsea, Bournemouth, Everton and Newcastle.
He was signed by Chelsea in 2013 before being sent on loan to Dutch club Vitesse.
The winger played for Everton, Bournemouth and Newcastle during loan spells from Stamford Bridge. Atsu ended his Premier League career having made 121 appearances.
Atsu became a fan favourite on Tyneside, making 107 appearances between 2016 and 2021 and scoring eight goals.
He moved to Newcastle from Chelsea on a permanent deal for £6.2 million in 2017.
The club tweeted: “We are profoundly saddened to learn that Christian Atsu has tragically lost his life in Turkey’s devastating earthquakes.
“A talented player and a special person, he will always be fondly remembered by our players, staff and supporters. Rest in peace, Christian.”
Former Chelsea club captain John Terry tweeted: “RIP my friend.”
Chelsea FC wrote: “It is with enormous sadness that Chelsea Football Club receives the news that Christian Atsu is confirmed as one of the many victims of the dreadful earthquake in Turkey and Syria.
“Chelsea sends our heartfelt condolences to Christian’s family and friends and to all those affected by the earthquake tragedy.”
Atsu’s Turkey-based agent, Murat Uzunmehmet, told reporters that Atsu player was found beneath the rubble of his home in southern Turkey.
He said: “Atsu’s lifeless body was found under the rubble. Currently, more items are still being taken out. His phone was also found.”
Atsu is survived by wife Marie-Claire Rupio Atsu and their three children.
His elder brother and twin sister were present at the recovery of his body. Atsu will now be flown home to be buried in his home country.
It came as a child was among three people rescued alive from the rubble in southern Turkey this morning, more than 296 hours after the earthquake, state news agency Anadolu reported.
Atsu was scheduled to leave Turkey just hours before the earthquake, having agreed to join a new club in France.
But he chose to stay after scoring a stoppage-time winner in Hatayspor’s Super Lig match against Kasimpasa on the day of the earthquake.
Hatayspor manager Fatih Ilek told Turkish radio yesterday: “Atsu wanted to play more and asked for permission from his coach to leave if he wasn’t going to get it.
“He bought a ticket to fly to Istanbul, and from there to France. He was going to look for a club to get more playing time.”
Atsu moved to Turkey last September, signing for the Antakya side on a one-year contract. He lived in the southern Turkish city with Hatayspor’s sporting director Taner Savut, who is still missing.
The club tweeted: “We will not forget you, Atsu. Peace be upon you, beautiful person. There are no words to describe our sadness. Rest in peace.”
Atsu also enjoyed a decorated career at international level, making 65 appearances for Ghana and scoring nine times.
He represented the West African nation at the 2014 World Cup and was named player of the tournament at the 2015 African Cup of Nations, in which Ghana were finalists.
Atsu first moved to Portugal aged 17 to pursue football, signing for Porto the same year.
Ghana’s foreign ministry wrote in a statement this morning: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration has received the unfortunate news of the recovery of the body of Christian Atsu from the rubble of his apartment, following the earthquake which struck Turkey on February 6 2023.
“The elder brother and twin sister of Christian Atsu and an Officer of the Embassy were present at the site when the body was recovered.
“The Embassy is currently making the necessary arrangements with the assistance of the Government of Turkey to have the body transported to Ghana for burial.”
Tributes have flooded in from across the football world. Istanbul team Galatasaray tweeted its condolences to Atsu’s family.
The club wrote: “We are sad to learn that Atakas Hatayspor football player Christian Atsu lost his life in the earthquake that stifled our country.
“Our condolences to Christian Atsu’s family, fans and Hatayspor community.”
Broadcaster Kelly Somers tweeted: “Tragic news about Christian Atsu. I was working at Bournemouth when he was there, and he was the sweetest, gentlest man.
“And every time I saw him at games in the years that followed, he never failed to come over and say hello and ask how I was. RIP.”
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville also reacted to the news, tweeting: “Terrible news.”