Cheick Tiote died at the age of just 30 last week after collapsing at training. Sportsmail can reveal Chinese club's facilities did not include a defibrillator.
Nine days on, Beijing Enterprises have still not explained why Tiote died but Investigation into ex-Newcastle star's death is certain to centre on his heart
One study in Nigeria suggests 75 per cent of footballers who have died through cardiac failure since 1990 are of African descent
There were plenty of people looking for a way to get Cheick Tiote into China four months ago, even though he'd fallen way down the pecking order at Newcastle United.
Agent Christopher Atkins, known for his links with Chinese clubs, says Tiote was 'offered' to him — though seemingly by an intermediary with no legitimate connection, looking to cash in on the Chinese football gold-rush.
'People are offering players for China who are not their players. You'll find there are four or five people between you and the player,' he says. Atkins, of RWMG Sports Asia, did not respond to the email extolling Tiote's skills.
THE TRAGIC TOLL
Players of African origin who have died from heart failure include:
Patrick Ekeng (Cameroon) - May 6, 2016
Cameroon international fell to the floor in the 70th minute of a televised Romanian league match between his side Dinamo Bucharest and Viitorul. Hospital staff were unable to resuscitate him on his arrival and was pronounced dead due to a heart failure two hours later.
David Oniya (Nigeria) - June 13, 2015
Nigerian footballer collapsed three minutes after kick-off in a friendly match for Malaysian outfit T-Team against Kelantan and died less one hour later in hospital.
Sekou Camara (Mali) - July 27, 2013
Collapsed on the field during Indonesian outfit's Pelita Bandung Raya, now known as Madura United, practice session in Bandung. He was rushed to the nearest hospital, but died on the way there. The cause of death was a heart attack.
Henry Chinonso Ihelewere (Nigeria) - August 5, 2012
The 21-year-old Delta Tulcea substitute collapsed during a friendly against Romanian rivals Balotesti. He was taken to hospital but he never regained consciousness.
Marc-Viven Foe (Cameroon) - June 26, 2003
Part of the Cameroon squad at the 2003 Confederations Cup in France, when he collapsed during his side's semi-final clash with Colombia. He was still alive when he arrived at the stadium's medical centre, but after being treated for 45 minutes he was pronounced dead. A second autopsy revealed he had died due to heart issues, with the discovery of a hereditary condition known to increase the risk of sudden death during physical exercise.
The player had been desperate to leave since the previous August, though his £50,000-a-week salary on Tyneside was the impediment. Would-be buyers wanted him on a free transfer because of the size of the salary, though Newcastle wanted a transfer fee.
Moves to Galatasaray, Russia and a Championship side had fallen through before Beijing Enterprises — a club in China's second tier named after a vast property company — agreed to pay the Ivorian £1.7million a year after tax. It was more than he received at Newcastle — and more than he would get anywhere else.
The acclimatisation was difficult. Beijing started the season disastrously, losing seven games out of eight under Bulgarian coach Yasen Petrov and Tiote started slowly in the oppressive March heat. 'He didn't look in the best shape and wasn't always playing,' says Atkins.
In May, the picture brightened. Former China national team coach Gao Hongbo replaced Petrov, began picking Tiote and the team began winning. He played in a 4-2 win over a North China region team Baoding Rongda on June 3.
Within 48 hours of that game he was dead, after collapsing on the team's state-owned training ground,
'If you look at any screening process, you are going to get some who screen as normal but have disease. This is called a 'false negative',' says Dr Ian Beasley, former England national team doctor and senior lecturer in Sports Medicine at Queen Mary University of London.
'It doesn't mean the individual has been screened wrongly, but that maybe there are other tests we don't yet have. There are always advances on the way in medicine. There are things we don't know.'
The desire to make it in football is leading some players to live with marginal risk. Sportsmail has established that one player's medical at a Premier League club last summer revealed a possible future cardiac risk — yet he moved to another club instead.
Former Millwall player Tobi Alabi, who suffered a heart attack on a pitch at 19 and runs screening charity Heart4More, believes football ambition clouds some players' willingness to be repeatedly screened.
Mohamed Diame's medical at Lens revealed a potential heart defect. Doctors advised him to never run again, let alone play football. Second opinions were sought and he now plays for Newcastle. Chelsea striker Loic Remy's known heart defect saw him fail a medical in 2010, but still join Marseille from Nice.
The medical complexities underline the need for China to have a medical infrastructure for players. Yet many sources in the country describe a shambolic set-up, even though the nation has witnessed a footballer's cardiac arrest in the past.
Serbian Goran Gogic, a 29-year-old at Qingdao Hainiu, collapsed on the team bus on the way home from training two years ago and could not be resuscitated.
'There was coverage for a day then it was swept under the carpet,' says one source. 'You never heard any more about it. I felt that it had never happened.'
China's accelerated football spending is fuelled by the riches of tycoons and enthusiasm of President Xi Jinping — a fan of the game who wants to turn China from a footballing backwater into an international power.
But after the latest overseas star has received a flashbulb welcome at the airport, he finds himself working out in a public gym.
'It's a plaything for the clubs' rich owners; a bubble,' says one source. 'There is no substance behind it.'
Tiote is remembered at Newcastle for his extraordinary work ethic. 'He trained like he played,' says an insider there. 'If anything, you'd have to calm him down because he gave his all. He never sulked when he fell down the pecking order.'
It was the same Tiote they saw in the heat of Beijing two Saturdays ago. He almost put through his own net at one stage just before half-time and his enthusiasm was as evident as ever.
'He was nine out of 10,' says one journalist who saw the game. 'He gave everything.