Former Birmingham City striker Christian Benitez dies aged 27
The Ecuadorean striker has tragically died aged 27
Former Birmingham striker Christian Benitez has died at the age of 27, his club in Qatar have confirmed.
The Ecuadorean international, who played for Birmingham on-loan in 2009/10, had just signed for Qatari club El Jaish last month for a fee of £10m.
The club confirmed that he died in an official statement.
It read: "The club would like to offer its sincere condolences to the family of the player.
"Benitez had recently joined the club from Club America for three seasons. The player participated for the first time with the team during yesterday's match against Qatar Sports Club in the Sheikh Jassem Cup without complaining of any health problems.
"His sudden departure is a big shock for each member of the technical and administrative staff. He was a player that over the short period he was here was regarded for his high moral character."
Although the club did not confirm the cause of death, it is believed the player suffered a cardiorespiratory arrest after he played in his club's match against Qatar SC.
Nicknamed ‘Chucho’, he was capped 58 times by his country, scoring 24 goals and he stands as the third highest scorer in Ecuador’s history.
He started his career at El Nacional on a youth contract before signing a permanent deal in 2004, going on to make 84 appearances and scoring 29 goals before moving to Santos Laguna in 2007.
Although he scored 51 goals in 97 appearances for the Mexican club, he was sent on-loan to St Andrews, where he played 36 times and scoring four goals during the club’s, but despite the club and then-manager Alex McLeish attempting to negotiate a permanent move, Benitez went back to Santos Laguna for another season.
The forward then moved to fellow Mexican side America, where he had a prolific record of 52 goals in 79 games, and he had recently signed for Qatari club El Jaish in June.
Benitez was making his debut for his new club, with his tragic death coming before he was able to feature prominently after his big-money move.
Christian Benitez (r) challenges his good friend and international teammate Antonio Valencia (l) in 2010
Benitez's international teammate Antonio Valencia instantly tweeted his sadness, posting on his offical Twitter account: "Brother God is with your family," along with pictures of Benitez, incuding one of the pair together seen below.
Antonio Valencia (l) and Christian Benitez (r) in a picture that the Manchester United winger posted on his Twitter account @AntoV
Sunderland midfielder Craig Gardner, who played with Benitez at Birmingham, said on the social networking site: "Can't believe Christian Benitez aka chucho has died had the pleasure to play with him he was a top bloke. My thoughts go out to his family."
Birmingham also sent a message of condolence through their official Twitter account.
"RIP Christian 'Chucho' Benitez. Forever in our hearts.
“The thoughts of all at Birmingham City Football Club are with the friends and family of Chucho following this very sad news. #RIP”
The club have also announced that they will honour Benitez in their opening Championship fixture against Watford at St Andrews.
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Manchester United vs Liverpool - I don't understand why Brendan Rodgers was not more attacking against Basel
Jesus Christ plays for Chelsea - that's what one in five children thinks
Transfer Talk: Nemanja Vidic to return to Manchester United; Hazard to leave Chelsea; Sunderland want Radamel Falcao
Frank Warren column: Don't bet on Amir Khan landing pay day against Floyd Mayweather
Manchester United transfer news: Kevin Strootman move edges closer
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre