Ecuadorian striker Christian ‘Chucho’ Benitez has died, aged 27.
The forward spent the 2009-10 season on loan at Birmingham City, and was linked with a move back to the Premier League this summer but ended up moving to Qatar to join El Jaish.
He made his debut for the club last night, but was admitted to hospital with stomach pains shortly after.
He was diagnosed with appendicitis, but – according to his father-in-law Cleber Chala who spoke on Ecuadorian radio – this developed into peritonitis and complications led to a respiratory arrest.
“They called me at 3am to tell me that they had taken him to hospital as an emergency due to stomach pains.
“When he arrived, he was not seen to quickly.
“By the time he was admitted he was no longer responding. This happened in Qatar, my daughter is alone there.”
Chala then tweeted: “A great has left us… You will live in our hearts forever Chucho.”
Former Everton midfielder, and Benitez’s Ecuador team-mate, Segundo Castillo told Radio La Red of his great loss:
“I talked to him two days ago. He was with his wife in Qatar and no problems.
“We can’t take it in, it is such terrible news. I feel so much pain.
“The news is very sad, I found out a moment ago and it’s very hard. He is like a brother to me and I still can’t believe it.”
Qatari club El Jaish confirmed the news in a statement:
“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.”