As Spanish football begins to come to terms with the death of RCD Espanyol captain Daniel Jarque at the age of 26, tributes have been paid to the central defender.
Fans of the Barcelona-based side began to gather at the team's ground on Saturday night shortly after it was announced that Jarque had died from heart complications while on a pre-season tour of Italy. Candles illuminated a collection of images of the player while scarves and team shirts were laid out at Gate 21 – the number worn by Jarque – of the new Cornellà-El Prat Stadium. Espanyol's vice-president Joan Collet admitted it was hard to accept the player's passing, saying: "It's a massive blow and a tragedy that's difficult to understand. We will be side by side with [Jarque's] family throughout."
The president of the Espanyol supporters club, Alberto Ariza, explained that, having come up through the club's youth ranks before going on to make 173 Liga appearances for Los Periquitos, Jarque was an example to every young player who dreamed of a career in the top flight. "He represented the youth system here and was a fine example of hard work, humility and strength," Ariza said. "It's very hard to explain what I feel right now. It still hasn't hit home." Meanwhile, Málaga CF midfielder Valdo was full of praise for his former team-mate, with whom he spent two seasons between 2007 and 2009. "He was a wonderful person and an example on and off the pitch," he said. "He was a humble man and never stopped working; it's a huge loss."
Another former team-mate, Francisco Rufete also remembered his time playing alongside Jarque with fondness. "The most beautiful image that comes to mind is his smile," the Hércules CF player said. "He was only 26 and I think that he was just about to start really enjoying many highs in both his professional and personal life. It's all the more difficult because we players form strong bonds and you dread to think that something like this can happen. It's exceptionally hard to imagine that our Jarque will no longer be with us."
Josep Guardiola, coach of Espanyol's cross-town rivals FC Barcelona, offered his support to the family of the former Spanish Under-19 international. "I'd like to express my deepest sympathy to Jarque's family, his partner and to Espanyol," he said. "We are all here for whatever they need." Barcelona president Joan Laporta echoed Guardiola's sentiments, adding: "We are deeply saddened by the death of this player whom we knew was about to become a father and who was recently named captain of his team. These are difficult times."
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