xAntonio José Puerta Pérez (26 November 1984 – 28 August 2007) was a Spanish footballer who played solely for Sevilla.
Mainly a left midfielder who could also operate as an attacking left back, he died on 28 August 2007 affected with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, three days after suffering a series of cardiac arrests during a La Liga game against Getafe on the 25th.
Puerta won five major titles with his only club.
Born in Seville, Andalusia, Puerta joined Sevilla FC as a boy and spent a total of 14 years at the club, growing up at the club’s acclaimed youth system alongside other players such as Alejandro Alfaro, Kepa Blanco, Jesús Navas, Sergio Ramos and José Antonio Reyes.
His La Liga debut came on 21 March 2004, as he played 71 minutes in a 0–1 home defeat against neighbours Málaga CF.
Definitely promoted to the first squad for the 2005–06 season, Puerta became intimately connected to Sevilla’s history on 27 April 2006, when he scored against FC Schalke 04 in the semifinals of the UEFA Cup: in the final moments of the match, he received a long ball and struck it with his left foot for the 1–0 final (and aggregate) win – Sevilla went on to collect five titles in fifteen months, with Puerta scoring his penalty shootout attempt in the 2007 UEFA Cup final, against compatriots RCD Espanyol; his impressive performances earned him international recognition and reported interest from Arsenal, Manchester United and Real Madrid, but all bids were rejected.
On 25 August 2007, Puerta collapsed and lost consciousness in the penalty area due to a cardiac arrest during Sevilla’s first La Liga match of the 2007–08 campaign at homeground Sánchez Pizjuán against Getafe CF.
He was seen crouching and then subsequently collapsing upon moving back to his team’s goal after only 35 minutes of the game had passed, as teammates Ivica Dragutinović and Andrés Palop immediately ran to his side as he lost consciousness; moments later, club medical staff and other players followed suit.
After recovering and being substituted, Puerta was able to walk to the dressing room, where he collapsed once again. He was resuscitated by the doctors and taken, by ambulance, to the intensive care unit of Virgen del Rocío hospital, where he received cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Puerta died on 28 August 2007, at 14:30. Doctor Francisco Murillo reported that Puerta had suffered multiple organ failure and irreversible brain damage as a result of multiple prolonged cardiac arrests due to an incurable, hereditary heart disease known as arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia.
There is no official word on whether he had ever been equipped with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, an essential precaution in people with the disease.
Puerta’s premature death from heart problems is similar to those of Marc-Vivien Foé, Matt Gadsby, Miklós Fehér, Renato Curi, Serginho and Phil O’Donnell all of whom collapsed whilst playing in football matches. His girlfriend was expecting their first child at the time of his death.
As a mark of respect, players from both Sevilla and city rivals Real Betis attended his funeral days after his death. Following Puerta’s death, FIFA ordered the installation of resuscitation rooms in every stadium that hosted the South American World Cup qualifiers.