Christian Atsu, 31, dies in Turkey-Syria earthquake as tributes pour in for ex-Chelsea footballer
Former Premier League footballer Christian Atsu has died.
The body of the Ghanaian, who was 31, was found in the rubble of his home in southern Turkey on Saturday morning as searches continued in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria earlier this month.
The sad news was confirmed by Atsu’s agent with the death toll from the disaster now surpassing 45,000.
“Atsu's lifeless body was found under the rubble,” Murat Uzunmehmet told reporters in Hatay. “Currently, more items are still being taken out. His phone was also found.”
Atsu joined local club Hatayspor in September and scored the winning goal in their Super Lig game on the eve of the earthquake, reportedly prompting him to delay plans to fly out of the city that night.
Born in Ghana, he was scouted by Portuguese club Porto at the age of 17 and signed for London giants Chelsea in 2013.
A number of loan spells saw Atsu play for the likes of Everton and Newcastle, where he remained for four years on a permanent deal.
Former clubs, teammates and fans sent messages of support to the player when he was pronounced missing on February 6. Further tributes poured in following confirmation of his death.
Newcastle stated: “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.”
Chelsea posted on social media: “Everyone at Chelsea Football Club is devastated to learn of the tragic passing of our former player, Christian Atsu. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.”
Everton wrote: “We are deeply saddened by today's news that Christian Atsu has been found dead following the earthquake in Turkey earlier this month. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, colleagues at Hatayspor and everyone affected by this tragic event that has claimed so many lives.”
Atsu’s final club, Hatayspor, tweeted: “The funeral of our football player Christian Atsu, who lost his life under the collapse, is on his way to be sent to his hometown Ghana. We will not forget you, Atsu. Peace be upon you, beautiful person. There are no words to describe our sadness. Rest in peace.”