Wolfsburg’s Junior Malanda has died aged 20 in a car crash in Germany.
The Belgium Under-21 midfielder had made 15 appearances for the German Bundesliga side this season, including against Everton in the Europa League.
He was linked to Fulham and Crystal Palace when he left Zulte Waregem in 2013 but instead joined Wolfsburg, before going back on loan to the Belgian side.
His last game was a 2-1 win over Cologne on 20 December.
Wolfsburg police confirmed the crash happened near the German city of Bielefeld.
Wolfsburg team-mate Kevin de Bruyne tweeted: “So strange to hear your friend in the morning and then hear this news. Lost a great friend way too early. RIP my friend. You will always be around.”
Another team-mate, Nicklas Bendtner, said on Instagram: “Not only a great player, but a great person. My thoughts and prayers will always be with you and your family brother. Your kind heart was rare and special. You will always be remembered.”
Chelsea’s Thorgan Hazard, who played with Malanda at Zulte Waregem, said: “Whyyyyy??? I love you brooo.”
Everton and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku said: “I love you my brother.”
Malanda’s fellow Belgian Thibaut Courtois, the Chelsea goalkeeper, said: “RIP @JuniorMalanda!! We lose a huge talent and a great person!!”
The Royal Belgian Football Association tweeted: “The world of football has lost a great talent today. URBSFA sends its condolences to his family & friends #ripmalanda.”
Bayern Munich and Germany midfielder Mario Gotze said: “RIP Junior #Malanda – sooo sad! My thoughts are with your family and friends…!”
Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel, Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng, Monaco midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia and Paris St-Germain left-back Lucas Digne were also among the other players to tweet their condolences.