Millwall and Montenegro goalkeeper Matija Sarkic dies aged 26

Millwall and Montenegro goalkeeper Matija Sarkic has died at the age of 26, the club has announced.

He reportedly fell ill at an apartment in the town of Budva in the Balkan country this morning.

The Montenegro Football Association said in a statement that Sarkic had "died suddenly".

A statement from Championship side Millwall said the club "is completely devastated to announce" the death of Sarkic, who made 33 appearances for the Lions since he joined from Wolverhampton Wanderers in August last year.

"A Montenegro international, Matija proudly represented his country on numerous occasions," it said.

"Everyone at the club sends their love and condolences to Matija's family and friends at this immensely sad time.

"The club will make no further comment at this time and asks that the privacy of Matija's family is respected."

Grimsby-born Sarkic last played 10 days ago, on 5 June against Belgium for Montenegro in a friendly.

He made his international debut against Belarus in 2019.

The country's football association said in a statement: "A beloved member of the 'Brave Falcons', an eternally smiling guy, played for our "A" selection in nine games, in which he showed how much he means to this team.

"Together with his twin brother Oliver, he passed all the junior categories of the Montenegrin national team.

"In the jersey of that iconic London club (Millwall), he left his mark, which was yet to become part of a bigger and more beautiful story.

"Premature death stopped that and caused great pain to the Sarkic family. The Football Association of Montenegro expresses its sincere condolences to the Sarkic family."

Millwall Supporters' Club posted on the X social media platform: "What horrendous news to wake up to this morning that our goalkeeper Matija Sarkic has died at the young age of 26. Devastating news for his friends and family and for all of us associated with Millwall. Once a lion, always a lion."

Sarkic began his career in Anderlecht's academy before joining Aston Villa in 2015 and had loan spells at Wigan, Stratford, Havant and Waterlooville, and Livingston before moving to Wolves in 2020.

He also played 60 games during loan spells at Shrewsbury, Birmingham, and Stoke.

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Tributes were also paid by Sarkic's former clubs with Villa saying on X: "Everyone at Aston Villa is deeply saddened by news of the passing of our former goalkeeper Matija Sarkic.

"Matija joined our Academy in 2015 and spent five years with the club, during which time he made his full international debut for Montenegro, before departing in the summer of 2020.

"The thoughts and condolences of all at the club are with his family and friends at this incredibly sad time."

Birmingham, where Sarkic made 23 appearances on loan during the 2021-22 season, said on X: "Everyone at Birmingham City is shocked and saddened to learn of the news that our former goalkeeper, Matija Sarkic, has passed away at the age of 26.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and all those that knew him."

The Football Association added: "We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Millwall goalkeeper Matija Sarkic.

"Our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends, as well as everybody at the club and the Montenegro national team at this very sad time."

Stoke, the Professional Footballers' Association and the English Football League also offered their condolences to Sarkic's family and friends.