Newcastle United and manager Rafa Benitez led the tributes after the news that Cheick Tiote had died at the age of 30 in China.
Tiote left St James' Park last February to join Beijing Enterprises, and he was training with the second division club when he collapsed on Monday morning.
The Ivory Coast midfielder was taken to hospital for emergency treatment but was pronounced dead a number of hours later.
He spent seven seasons on Tyneside, and a statement from the club read: "We are devastated to have learnt of the tragic passing of Cheick Tiote at the age of just 30.
"The thoughts of everyone at Newcastle United are with Cheick's family, friends, teammates and everyone connected with the clubs he represented.
"Cheick cemented his place in Newcastle folklore with his dramatic equaliser in the 4-4 draw against Arsenal in February 2011."
Benitez said: "It is with great sadness that I have this afternoon learned of Cheick's death.
"In the all the time that I have known him, he was a true professional, dedicated, talented, and above all, a great man. Our hearts go out to his family and friends at such a sad time."
Tiote played under Alan Pardew for four years at Newcastle, and told Sky Sports News HQ in a statement he is deeply saddened by news of his former player's death and unable to speak on the phone.
"I'm devastated to hear the news about my former player and friend Cheick Tiote," Pardew's statement read.
"From the moment I arrived at Newcastle, Cheick was a wonderful presence around the dressing room and his performances on the field often defied belief.
"There were days when he must have covered every blade of grass on a football field and it didn't surprise me that clubs like Manchester United were being linked with attempts to sign him.
"None of us will ever forget that incredible day when our Newcastle team came from 4-0 down to draw an unbelievable Premier League game against Arsenal, with Cheick's incredible goal in the final moments of that game one of the iconic moments in Premier League history.
"I loved him. He's everything that you want in a Newcastle player. He has the quality, and of course you'll never underestimate the fact that he wants to win.
"To hear the news that he has passed away at the age of 30 breaks my heart and my sympathies go out to all his family and friends who will be devastated by this news.
"Life if not fair sometime and I will remember Cheick Tiote as a giant of a midfielder who I loved to managed.
"Rest in peace my friend."