Willy Braciano Ta Bi lost his year-long battle with liver cancer in Italy on Tuesday at the age of 21, his former club Atalanta confirmed in a statement.
The Ivorian defensive midfielder and the UEFA Champions League contenders mutually parted ways last year, as he focused on treatment often shuttling between Italy and his native Cote D’Ivoire.
Willy joined Atalanta from Asec Mimosas in 2019 following a promising stint with the local topflights during which he captained the Ivorian national youth team.
“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.
“It took him a few months to play a leading role in the Primavera and help bring the Scudetto back to Bergamo, but, above all, to leave a great memory of himself.”
At the Atalanta youth outfit, Willy played alongside another Ivorian Amad Diallo, who joined Manchester United in January.
In September last year, his family made a public plea in a statement: “Willy can no longer walk. He no longer thinks of football. His days are numbered. Doctors are demanding 5 million francs ($10,000) for his operation, which his mother cannot afford. We need help.”