Car accident claims the life of 20-year-old Belgian Junior Malanda

Wolfsburg midfielder Junior Malanda has died in a car accident, according to Germany’s BILD. The Belgium youth international was 20 years old.

Malanda had represented his country at six different levels, from his first appearances with Belgium’s U-15s to his recent appearances for its U-21s. The defensive midfielder had also made seven starts this season across all competitions for his club.

The accident occurred today in Porta Westfalica, a town in north-central Germany. Malanda was reportedly in the back seat of his party’s Volkswagon Touareg when the car was involved in a high-speed collision. Thrown from the road, the SUV crashed into a tree. It’s believed Malanda died immediately.

A product of French club Lille’s youth system, Malanda joined Wolfsburg in 2013 from Belgian club Zulte Waregram, where he spent half of last season on loan. This year, his first full campaign with Wolfsburg, the Brussels-born midfielder had become an occasional contributor, collecting 13 appearances and two assists between league, Europa, and German Cup play.

For Belgian’s youth teams, he’d been a consistent call up since joining the country’s U-15 squad as a 14-year-old. Between his first appearance with that team in 2009 through his more recent contributions to Belgium’s U-21s, Malanda made 53 appearances at six levels, with his Sept. 5, 2013 goal in European U-21 Championship qualifying in Italy his only competitive goal.

Usually, when we cover soccer players’ deaths, we have a career to celebrate, even if their passing comes in tragic circumstances. With Malanda, we only have a career to imagine. The brief glimpses of his talent he gave us hinted he could grow into a major factor for both club and country. After today’s accident, we’ll unfortunately never know. Malanda’s passed away far too soon.