Millwall and Montenegro goalkeeper Matija Sarkic dies aged 26

Millwall and Montenegro goalkeeper Matija Sarkic dies aged 26

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

It has been reported that Sarkic fell ill at an apartment in the town of Budva in Montenegro on Saturday morning.

“Millwall Football Club is completely devastated to announce that Matija Sarkic has passed away at the age of 26,” the Sky Bet Championship club said in a statement.

“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 began his career in Anderlecht’s academy before joining Aston Villa in 2015.

Sarkic had loan spells at Wigan, Stratford, Havant and Waterlooville and Livingston and moved to Wolves in 2020.

Swansea City v Stoke City – Sky Bet Championship – Stadium
Matija Sarkic spent time on loan at Stoke before joining Millwall (Nick Potts/PA)

He played 60 games during loan spells at Shrewsbury, Birmingham and Stoke before joining Millwall last August, where he made 33 appearances.

Sarkic made his Montenegro debut against Belarus in 2019 and was on international duty last week for a friendly against Belgium.

The Montenegro Football Association said in a statement that Sarkic had “died suddenly” on Saturday morning.

“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,” the statement added.

“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.”

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.

England manager Gareth Southgate also paid tribute to Sarkic.

Speaking ahead of England’s opening Euro 2024 match against Serbia on Sunday, Southgate said: “I know that some of our players and staff actually played and worked with Matija. Clearly those boys that played with him are feeling that even more.”

Former Aston Villa defender Micah Richards was at the club at the same time as Sarkic was starting out on his senior career.

Richards, now a media pundit, said on BBC One: “He was a young lad coming through at Aston Villa, trained with the first team and when I got the news I was absolutely devastated.

“Just 26 years of age, gone way too soon. I have been a little bit down all day, thinking about it, to be totally honest. I just want to send my condolences to his family.”