Footballer Christian Atsu has been found dead under the rubble of his home almost two weeks after the Turkey earthquake, his agent has confirmed.
The Ghana international, 31, had spells with Premier League sides Everton, Chelsea and Newcastle.
Atsu had been missing since the 6 February quake that caused the collapse of his apartment in Antakya, Hatay.
“There are no words to describe our sadness,” tweeted his Turkish top-flight club Hatayspor.
“We will not forget you, Atsu. Peace be upon you, beautiful person.”
In the aftermath of the quake, Hatayspor initially reported Atsu had been rescued “with injuries”, but a day later that position changed.
His agent Nana Sechere, who has been in Hatay, confirmed the news on Saturday on Twitter, writing: “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.”
The Ghana Football Association said Atsu’s body was recovered on Saturday morning after “almost two weeks of emotional torture”.
The Ghanaian foreign ministry added that Atsu’s elder brother and twin sister were at the site when his body was recovered.
Atsu’s body was flown back to Ghana on Saturday for burial.
The ministry said it sent “deepest condolences to the widow and family”.
The earthquake and aftershocks in southern Turkey and northern Syria are known to have killed more than 40,000 people.
‘A talented player and a special person’
Atsu joined Hatayspor in September after a season with Saudi Arabian team Al-Raed and scored the winning goal in a Super Lig match on 5 February.
He won 65 caps for Ghana and helped his country reach the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations final where they lost to Ivory Coast on penalties. Atsu was later named player of the tournament.
In a tweet, Ghana’s men’s team the Black Stars paid tribute to the winger, writing: “You served our Country well, forever in our hearts. Rest in Peace.”
He joined Chelsea from Porto in 2013 and had several loan spells at clubs including Everton and Bournemouth.
An initial loan period at Newcastle in 2016, in which he helped the team win promotion from the Championship to the Premier League, was made permanent in 2017.
Newcastle forward Allan Saint-Maximin paid tribute to his former team-mate before his side’s game against Liverpool on Saturday.
“It’s hard to explain. I’m not going to lie, I’d never seen a guy like that before when I arrived at Newcastle,” Saint-Maximin told Sky Sports.
“He was always giving me advice, always. He was a very nice guy, always joking and smiling, when he played or didn’t play.
“He was a great person, so that’s why it’s sad for me.”
Former Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez, who spent just over three years in charge at St James’ Park until 2019, said he had been in contact with his former player last month.
Benitez told Sky Sports: “We were sharing some messages – it’s very difficult for me to express in English – but I was feeling so bad and I was trying to contact him.
“Also, I don’t want to forget the rest of the people because there are a lot of people that have been in a really difficult time and I think we have to help in a way and today we have to remember Christian. Really sad.”
Newcastle said the club was “profoundly saddened” by Atsu’s death, calling him “a talented player and a special person, he will always be fondly remembered by our players, staff and supporters”.
Everton said they were “deeply saddened” by the news, while Chelsea said they were “devastated”.
There were minutes of applause before Premier League games on Saturday and players will also wore black armbands in remembrance.
Ghana sports broadcaster Michael Oti Adjei told BBC World Service Sportshour: “He was always grounded and he had a nice word for everybody.
“He was a lovely person to deal with and was one heck of a player too. He had a very good left foot and played 65 times for Ghana, scoring more than 10 goals. He paid his dues to the national team.
“When he made his debut, there was talk of a nickname of Ghana’s Messi. Those who knew him were talking of a young Ghanaian player who could potentially become one of the best African players ever.”