After a long battle against cancer, Atalanta youngster Willy Ta Bi passed away at the age of 21 this morning.
The former Primavera champion from Ivory Coast died of a tumour that had attacked the liver.
In recent months, the young midfielder had returned to his homeland.
“President Antonio Precassi and the whole Atalanta family are deeply saddened by the untimely death of Willy Braciano Ta Bi,” the club wrote in a statement.
“A cruel destiny interrupted a dream that began with the Nerazzurri shirt in January 2019 too soon.
“He only needed a few months to carve out a leading role in the Primavera and help bring the Scudetto back to Bergamo, but above all to leave a great memory.”
Meanwhile, tributes have poured in for the youngster.
His club, Atalanta in an Instagram post said:
“We mourn the premature passing of our player and U19 Champion of Italy Willy Braciano Ta Bi and share the grief of his family and beloved ones. Rest in peace, Willy.”
On their website they wrote:
“We share with deep emotion the pain of those close to Willy Braciano Ta Bi, who died early.”
“A dream that began in the black-blue shirt in January 2019 has been cruelly interrupted too soon by fate.
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Ta Bi joined Atalanta from Ivory Coast’s Asec Mimosa in 2019 and immediately helped the team win the Italian youth title, the Primavera.
The former Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba also paid tribute to Ta Bi on social media.
“Ivory Coast, the football world are mourning you, you fought against this damn disease as you fought on the pitches like a real boss, a leader!!!!”
Juventus midfielder Dejan Kulusevski, who was also part of that youth team at Atalanta, also paid tribute to his ex-teammate on Instagram: “rest in peace, brother”.
Another former Atalanta team-mate who paid his respects was Manchester United’s new Ivory Coast-born winger Amad Diallo.
“Rest in peace, Willy Braciano Ta Bi. Forever in our hearts.” He also posted a picture of them embracing and wrote: “Now sleep in peace, friend,” the 18-year-old wrote on Instagram.
Ta Bi captained the Ivory Coast at youth level and represented his country at the Francophone Games in 2017, with Drogba posting a video of a passionate team talk given by the youngster.
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