Glentoran star and Linfield boss join chorus of support after Nacho Novo suffers heart attack
Nacho Novo's friends and former team-mates in Northern Ireland are among hundreds of well-wishers hoping the Rangers legend can make a speedy recovery after he suffered a heart attack on Saturday evening.
The 38-year-old, who played for the Ibrox club between 2004 and 2010, was featuring in a legends tournament in Berlin when he was taken ill after Rangers had been knocked out of the round-robin event.
He was rushed to hospital from the Max-Schmeling-Halle arena after suffering chest pains and underwent emergency surgery but he is now in a stable condition and talking.
Glentoran, Novo's last club before retiring last summer, tweeted: "Best wishes to our former player @nnovo1010 for a swift and full recovery in hospital in Berlin after taking ill after playing in a masters tournament yesterday. Speedy recovery Nacho."
Bill Peden, the striker's former agent, said: "I've had so many messages wishing Nacho well from people such as Northern Ireland international Stuart Dallas, Linfield manager David Healy and the Glentoran directors and chairman Stephen Henderson.
"From Australia to Norway and Scotland, so many people want to wish Nacho well and we all hope he makes a quick recovery."
Novo's former team-mate at Glentoran, Ross Redman, added: "I texted him to wish him well. Nacho came to the club one month after me and he was brilliant in the changing room, particularly with the younger players who he really wanted to help.
"I have been keeping in touch with him and this is very sad news. He's a big character and we all wish him well."
Tournament organisers stated: “We’re very sad what happened yesterday at our Tournament. Rangers FC legend Nacho Novo got a heart attack. We were at the hospital today. He’s feeling better and was asking for the whole video from the tournament to watch it and was smiling. Get well soon Nacho!”
Rangers added: “The Club can confirm that Nacho Novo took ill after playing in the AOK Traditionmasters tournament in Berlin yesterday. He was admitted to hospital and is in a stable condition. Everyone at the club wishes Nacho a speedy recovery.”
Girlfriend Stephanie Heaney confirmed the former Dundee hero was stable and speaking after the scare.
On Saturday morning Novo posted a picture on Instagram of him sharing a pre-match coffee with team-mate Michael Mols, with Gordon Durie, Alex Rae, Andy Goram and Jorg Albertz also playing for Rangers.
The Scottish club lost both of their round-robin games, though the Spaniard was on the scoresheet several times.
Novo, who featured more than 250 times for the Light Blues, struggled to make a big impact at Glentoran but he remained a hugely popular figure during his spell with the east-Belfast club and there was widespread condemnation after he received a sickening death threat from dissident republicans.
Along with Bill Peden and in conjunction with Belfast-based charity SOS, he organised a Christmas visit to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast to give around 300 presents to kids staying in the children’s unit over the festive period.
Peden added: “It’s my understanding he had a blocked artery which needed to be repaired through surgery. He seems to be recovering well and I was able to talk to him briefly around mid-day on Sunday. He will remain in intensive care and will not leave the hospital for a few days.
“The messages I have received show how popular Nacho is and we all wish him a speedy and full recovery. He would still play in a few tournaments and I’m not aware of any health scare affecting him similar to this one.”
Glentoran full-back Redman added: “When Nacho came to the Glens he spent the first week or two signing autographs. It didn’t work out for him from a playing perspective but he worked hard and was always offering to help on and off the pitch. He made time for other people and was a humble person.”
Rangers cult hero Marco Negri, ex-Dundee teammate Lee Mair and former foes Chris Sutton and John Hartson were among the hundreds who took to social media to say they were thinking of the player. Former Celtic striker Sutton posted on Twitter: “Best wishes and thoughts to Nacho Novo and his family after he had a heart attack yesterday.”
Hartson added: “Get well soon Wee Nacho Novo hope you make a speedy recovery.”