Page last updated at 22:53 GMT, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Cheryl Cole splits from footballer Ashley Cole

Cheryl Cole arrives back in the UK

Pop star Cheryl Cole is separating from her husband, England and Chelsea footballer Ashley Cole.

"Cheryl asks the media to respect her privacy during this difficult time," a statement from her spokesman said.

It follows press reports about the couple's private life suggesting their four-year marriage was in trouble.

Cheryl Cole's band Girls Aloud said they were supporting her "in private", while Chelsea said they were offering their player all the support possible.

Fidelity

The 26-year-old X Factor judge married the footballer in 2006, in a lavish ceremony in Hertfordshire.

Ashley and Cheryl Cole
The couple's wedding featured in OK! magazine

The pair met in 2004 and were engaged a year later after the footballer proposed in Dubai.

Glossy magazine OK! covered the wedding, despite Cole's earlier insistence that the ceremony would be a "quiet affair".

In 2008, the couple's marriage was rocked by tabloid speculation about Ashley Cole's infidelity. The Girls Aloud star fled the country and was pictured without her wedding ring.

In a later interview with Jonathan Ross, the singer sported the wedding band and joked: "I was tempted to put it back on his head!"

BBC's Lizo Mzimba: "I don't think this has surprised many people"

Speaking about press interest in her life, the singer added: "There's no such thing as a private life in this industry.

"I spoke openly about my marriage in the past and it's come back to hit me in the face. I learnt from the past that you shouldn't do that."

The singer performed her solo track Fight For This Love at the Brit Awards earlier this month and flew to the US afterwards before returning to the UK earlier today.

Left-back Ashley Cole, 29, had ankle surgery earlier this month but his club manager Carlo Ancelotti expects him to be fit to play in the World Cup which starts in South Africa in June.



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