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Romanian defender Daniel Prodan mourned

Former Steaua Bucureşti, Atlético Madrid and Romania central defender Daniel Prodan has died at the age of 44 after suffering a heart attack.

Daniel Prodan lines up with Romania ahead of a World Cup qualifier in 1997
Daniel Prodan lines up with Romania ahead of a World Cup qualifier in 1997 ©Getty Images

Romanian football is reeling following the death of former national-team central defender Daniel Prodan, who could not be resuscitated after suffering a heart attack on Wednesday night at the age of 44.

His former team-mates are struggling to deal with the news, goalkeeper Florin Prunea saying: "We were colleagues in the national team and we shared the same office at the FA. He never had health problems, we played football together for pleasure – I really can not understand what has happened and why." Gheorghe Hagi added: "I am in shock. Rest in peace and farewell, Didi Prodan."

His former coach at Steaua, Mihai Stoichiţă, said: "He was such an optimistic person, always motivating everybody around him. He had this ability to take the tension out of any situation within the team. Life is so unfair."

Born in Satu Mare, he started his career at the local club Olimpia but was transfered to Steaua Bucureşti, where he played for three years until he moved on to Atlético Madrid in Spain in 1997. Prodan then joined Rangers in 1998 but was unable to make a single first-team appearance in Scotland due to a serious knee injury. He returned to Romania for spells with Steaua and fellow capital sides Rocar Bucureşti and National Bucureşti, and also spent a brief spell in Italy with Messina.

More notably, he was capped 54 times for Romania from 1993-2001 and was one of the stars of the team that made it to the quarter-finals of the 1994 FIFA World Cup (eliminating Argentina, but losing on penalties to Sweden), and then qualified for EURO '96.

After hanging up his boots in 2003, Prodan worked as sporting director of the Romanian Football Federation (FRF) and the senior national team until 2011, and fulfilled a similar role with the Under-21s from 2011-14. He also served on the UEFA Youth and Amateur Football Committee (2006-09), the UEFA Development and Technical Assistance Committee (2009-11) and the UEFA HatTrick Committee (2011-15).