Post by Elie De Beaufour on Jan 11, 2015 7:07:43 GMT -5
Wolfsburg midfielder Junior Malanda has died at the age of 20, the Belgian Football Association has announced.
According to reports in Germany, the Belgium Under-21 international died after the car he was a passenger in crashed on a motorway near Porta Westfalica in north-west Germany on Saturday afternoon.
Bild newspaper said the two other people in the vehicle had been taken to hospital with serious injuries after the car left the road and crashed into a tree amid heavy rain and wind.
A statement on www.belgianfootball.be read: "The football world today lost a great talent. Junior Malanda lost his life this afternoon, at the age of 20.
"The Belgian Football Association extends its sympathy to family and friends."
Malanda, who joined the Bundesliga club from Belgian side Zulte Waregem in 2013, had reportedly been due to fly to South Africa on Saturday night for Wolfsburg's winter training camp.
Wolfsburg have yet to confirm the news on their website but forward Kevin De Bruyne - a club-mate and countryman of Malanda - wrote on Instagram: "So strange to hear your friend in the morning and then hear this news. Lost a great friend way to (sic) early. Rest in peace my friend. You will always be around."
Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois also paid his respects on Twitter, saying: "RIP @juniormalanda!! We lose a huge talent and a great person!!"
Wolfsburg, who are second in the Bundesliga and in the last 32 of the Europa League, confirmed on Saturday evening that Malanda had died in a traffic accident.
Sporting director Klaus Allofs said in a statement: "We are all deeply saddened and our disbelief can hardly be put into words.
"We all loved him. He was the good spirit of our team and a fun-loving person. In addition, Junior was an excellent football player who was only at the very beginning of his development.
"We still cannot believe that he is no longer with us. Our thoughts at this difficult time are with his family and loved ones."
Tributes from around the footballing world also poured in for Malanda, including messages from Belgium internationals Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel, Germany forward Mario Gotze and Denmark and Wolfsburg striker Nicklas Bendtner.
The Wolves, meanwhile, announced they had cancelled their scheduled departure for South Africa as fans gathered at the club's Volkswagen Arena to mourn the midfielder.
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