Espanyol mourn loss of their Perico prince

In 2007, Sevilla took on Espanyol in an all-Spanish UEFA Cup final in Glasgow. Two of those players who took part in that dramatic game have since been lost to the world of football. Just under two years ago, Sevilla’s Antonio Puerta died in hospital days after collapsing on the pitch in the Andalusian side’s season opener against Getafe. On Saturday evening, Espanyol captain Dani Jarque suddenly fell unconscious after suffering suspected heart problems.

At the time, he was talking to his girlfriend Jéssica from his hotel room in Florence, where the Espanyol squad were staying as part of a pre-season tour. Frightened by what had happened to her partner, Jéssica called Jarque’s room-mate and best friend, Ferran Corominas, who alerted those at the hotel that there was a problem.

Despite attempts by the club’s doctor and an ambulance crew who rushed to his aid, Dani Jarque’s life could not be saved.

It should have been the best year in the personal and professional life of Espanyol’s number 21.

His girlfriend is due to give birth to their first child in three weeks time and he had just been made captain of the club.

What’s more he was to set to be leading his players through the upcoming campaign in their brand new stadium. “Putting on the armband is a dream come true for me,” said Jarque when told by manager Pochettino that he would be taking over the role from Raúl Tamudo. Local lad Jarque joined the Pericos at the age of 12 and made his top flight debut in 2002.

In his spell at the Barcelona-based side, the central defender won the Copa del Rey in 2006 and was a runner up in the 2007 UEFA Cup final against Sevilla. His new responsibilities at Espanyol made many feel that an international call-up to Spain was due any day.   Instead, it will be promise unfulfilled for a player Tomas Guasch describes in AS as “kind, polite, a really great person. An exemplary kid and footballer.”“I shared some great moments with him, when he showed his true quality,” said Fernando Torres. Tributes have been pouring in from all over Spanish football throughout the weekend, with 50,000 fans going to gate 21 of Espanyol’s new home to light candles and leave messages.

As well as shock at the news in the Spanish press over the weekend and on Monday, there is a great deal of debate as to how such a tragedy can have happened once again.

How the game has lost another player at the peak of his powers to a heart condition. “Jarque’s death must be the last,” is the demand from Marca who call for a full investigation from FIFA and UEFA. A footballer who seemed to come terrifyingly close to suffering the same fate as Antonio Puerta and Dani Jarque is Rúben de la Red.

The Real Madrid midfielder collapsed on the pitch during a cup game in October of last year has been speaking about the sudden death of his footballing colleague. “I guess he didn’t have the luck I had,” said De la Red who still doesn’t know if he will ever be able to play football again. La Liga Loca was at the Vicente Calderón in May to see what turned out to be Jarque’s final goal for Espanyol.

As it happened, it wasn’t enough to prevent defeat on the day against Atlético Madrid, but his leadership and commitment helped get his club out of an extraordinarily tough spot last season and lead them out of the relegation zone. But someone who has got to know Jarque a whole lot better than the blog is Paul from Barcelona, who must now spend next season watching his side battle on without their captain, who died on Saturday night at the age of just 26. “I remember him making his debut at right-back and he did OK. Then he played occasionally as a defensive midfielder and he did OK. The move to centre-back made him. "Tough-tackling, strong and a good reader of the game. He blossomed by working first with Lotina, then Valverde who turned him into a defender who was as good as the competition (Marchena, Puyol etc.)."Loved by the fans for his attitude. If it wasn't for his occasional blood rush to the head by giving the ball away on the edge of the area he surely would have moved to a bigger club.

"Rumoured interest from Barça, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Spurs should have been followed up as he would have graced any of these teams with honour.

"From 13 until his sad death he was Espanyol through and through and his being made captain was the highlight.

"He will be a massive loss to the team, especially his best friend Coro and defensive partner Pareja, who has taken his death particularly hard according to reports."Hopefully Espanyol will retire his number (21) and we will all pay our respects at the first home game of the season. R.I.P Dani Jarque.P.S - a salute to Barça,Valencia and Sporting for their tributes and actions.”Paul, Barcelona

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FourFourTwo.com: More to read...

Andy Mitten: Barca & Espanyol unite to honour Jarque NEWS: Players plead for better tests after Jarque death

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