Wolfsburg’s Junior Malanda killed in car crash in Germany

The 20-year-old Belgian defensive midfielder joined Wolfsburg in 2013 and was considered a rising star in Europe.

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Wolfsburg’s Junior Malanda, a 20-year-old footballer who was regarded as one of the Bundesliga’s rising stars, was reportedly killed in a car crash on a German autobahn on Saturday, according to reports from Germany.

Wolfsburg police official Thomas Schmidtke told the Associated Press that Malanda was killed, and said the crash occurred near Bielefeld in western Germany. He was unable to give further details.

According to German newspaper Bild, Malanda was a passenger in a car that police believe was travelling at high speed in poor conditions near Porta Westfalica in north-central Germany, with winds in excess of 40 mph. The Volkswagen Touareg vehicle skidded off the road, passed through a guardrail and came to rest at a tree. Malanda was reportedly ejected from the car and died instantly. Two other passengers have been taken to a local hospital.

Bielefeld police officer Joerg Haeckel says police could not confirm or deny the report until next of kin were informed.

Malanda was a promising young midfielder who had represented Belgium through numerous age groups. 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. He appeared in 10 Bundesliga games for Wolfsburg this term. His past clubs include Zuite-Waregem and Lille.

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."

Wolfsburg teammate and fellow compatriot Kevin De Bruyne was among one of the first players to express their sadness on Twitter:

Belgium internationals Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku and national team captain Vincent Kompany also paid their respects on social media: