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LONDON (Reuters) - British pop singer Cheryl Cole and her England footballer husband Ashley Cole are to separate, her spokesman said on Tuesday.
The announcement follows weeks of speculation that their marriage was in trouble after a Sunday newspaper published a series of stories about the footballer, who plays for Chelsea and England.
The 26-year-old singer, who is also a judge on the popular television music show "The X-Factor," announced the separation in a brief statement released by her public relations company.
"Cheryl Cole is separating from her husband Ashley Cole," the statement said. "Cheryl asks the media to respect her privacy during this difficult time. We have no further comment to make."
The footballer's publicist could not immediately be reached for comment.
Since their marriage in 2006, they had become one of Britain's most famous celebrity couples, with newspapers and paparazzi recording every detail of their lives.
Cheryl Cole rose to fame with the pop group Girls Aloud before launching a solo singing career and moving into television.
Her 29-year-old husband began his career as a defender with Arsenal, moving to their London rivals Chelsea in 2006. He has played more than 70 games for his country.
Reporting by Peter Griffiths