Sterchele, 26, had been capped four times for Belgium and was completing the first year of a five-year contract at Club Brugge. He had scored 11 goals with one game to play in the 2007-08 season.
He was remembered as a player who played like he lived -- going all out all the time. One Belgian newspaper called him Belgian soccer's "bling-bling" player.
Last season with Germinal Beerschot, Sterchele was the top scorer in Belgium's Juliper League with 21 goals.
Sterchele, born in the eastern city of Liege from a family with Italian roots, was a late bloomer. He only made his debut in the top level of Belgian soccer three years.