MADRID (Reuters) - Sevilla midfielder Antonio Puerta, one of Spain’s most promising young players, died on Tuesday three days after collapsing during a Primera Liga match.
The 22-year-old Spanish international had been in a critical condition in the Virgen del Rocio hospital in Seville since being admitted on Saturday.
“We regret to report that the patient Antonio Puerta died at 1430 (1230 GMT) today. The death was caused by postanoxic encephalopathy and a multiple failure of his organs caused by the prolonged cardiac arrest that provoked his admission to hospital,” the hospital said in a statement.
Sevilla said that Puerta’s body would be taken to the club’s Sanchez Pizjuan stadium where fans could pay their respects and that the player would be buried on Thursday.
“Today is one of the saddest days in the history of Sevilla Football Club,” A tearful Sevilla president Jose Maria del Nido told reporters.
“That diamond left foot of Antonio Puerta’s has left us, that left foot that changed our lives has left us.”
The player was due to become a father for the first time in around a month and a half, Spanish media reported.
Sevilla’s Champions League third qualifying round second leg against AEK Athens in Greece on Tuesday has been postponed but Friday’s European Super Cup against AC Milan in Monaco could still go ahead, UEFA said.
“Tonight’s match is postponed, but we have spoken to the clubs involved in Friday’s game and it goes ahead at the moment but we will transform the game on Friday into a tribute to Antonio Puerta,” said UEFA’s William Gaillard, special advisor to president Michel Platini.
“Of course we will respect the Sevilla players if they feel they do not want to play. But we hope that this can be a dedication to their former team mate.”
Milan expressed their condolences, saying they were prepared to call off the Super Cup if necessary.
Puerta collapsed after jogging back towards his own goal 35 minutes into Saturday’s home game against Getafe.
Team mates and medical staff immediately rushed to his side and were seen preventing him from swallowing his tongue as he lost consciousness, but he was able to walk from the pitch.
Doctors said that he collapsed again in the changing rooms and had to be given cardiac resuscitation before being taken to hospital.
There have been a number of high-profile deaths related to heart ailments in football in recent years.
Among those were Cameroon’s Marc-Vivien Foe, who collapsed and died during a Confederations Cup match in 2003 and Miklos Feher of Benfica who died in January 2004.
Sao Caetano defender Serginho died in a Brazilian championship match in October the same year and Hugo Cunha of Uniao Leiria in Portugal was another victim in 2005.
Puerta was a product of Sevilla’s impressive youth system breaking into the side in the 2004-5 season, before becoming a regular the following year as a versatile left sided player who could play as a wing back or midfielder.
He was fondly remembered by Sevilla fans for the spectacular goal he scored against Schalke 04 that put them in the UEFA Cup final for the first time in April 2006.
He was part of the team that went on to retain the UEFA Cup last season and win the King’s Cup. He had earned one cap for Spain.
Additional reporting by Darren Ennis in Brussels, Mark Meadows in Milan
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