Italian club Atalanta have led the tributes to young Ivorian player Willy Braciano Ta Bi who died on Tuesday aged just 21 after a battle against liver cancer.
“We share with deep emotion the pain of those close to Willy Braciano Ta Bi, who died early,” Atalanta wrote on their website.
“A dream that began in the black-blue shirt in January 2019 has been cruelly interrupted too soon by fate.
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.