Daniel Jarque, the captain of La Liga side Espanyol, died on Saturday night at the age of 26. The midfielder's heart stopped following a training session in Coverciano, Italy, where the squad are on a pre-season camp. Reports suggest Jarque was on the phone to his fiancée – who is eight months pregnant – at the time and she alerted two of his team-mates, who raced to his hotel room.
Club doctors and Italian paramedics tried to revive Jarque without success. An autopsy is to be carried out in Italy before his body is returned to Spain.
The Espanyol director German de la Cruz said: "As it is the beginning of the season, the first thing that happens is that every player does an exhaustive medical. Dani never showed even the slightest sign that would make you think something as unfortunate as this could happen."
The Real Madrid captain, Raul, paid tribute to Jarque. He said: "We want to give encouragement to all the Espanyol family at such a hard time, which has left us all filled with dismay and pain. Such a young lad, a great professional and sportsman, who suffered this has left us all very hurt. From here our most sincere sympathies."
The Real coach Manuel Pellegrini added: "It is news that you wish wasn't true. It's terrible, it already happened a couple of years ago to Seville [Antonio Puerta, 22, died of heart failure after collapsing during a Spanish league game] and the truth is these things have an impact."
Jarque joined Espanyol as 12-year-old, making his debut in 2002, and was handed the captaincy this summer. Former Espanyol coach Ramon Moya, who handed Jarque his debut against Rayo Vallecano, was deeply shocked. "I feel like I have lost a son," he said. "Jarque was a footballer, but he was also my friend. It was as if he was family."
Espanyol, who had been due to play Bologna in a friendly yesterday, suspended their pre-season tour of Italy and flew back to Barcelona.