AC Milan's Kessie pays tribute to fallen Atalanta youngster Ta Bi after opening goal vs Red Star Belgrade

Franck Kessie pays tribute to Ta Bi
The Ivorian youngster died on Tuesday after battling with liver cancer for months

AC Milan captain Franck Kessie paid tribute to fallen Ivory Coast and Atalanta youngster Willy Braciano Ta Bi, who died at the age of 21 this week.

The 24-year-old fired Stefano Pioli's men ahead in the ninth minute of their Uefa Europa League outing against Red Star Belgrade, with his strike from the penalty spot.

The effort was Kessie's eighth goal in all competitions this season which he marked uniquely in memory of his fallen compatriot.

He moved towards the sidelines to raise a white shirt which has "Adieu Champion Ta Bi Willy" written on it.

Shortly after the opener, Comoros striker El Fardou Ben Nabouhane scored an equaliser for the Serbian giants to put the aggregate score at 3-3 but AC Milan qualified for the Round of 16 on away goals.

Ta Bi moved to Italy to join Atalanta from Ivory Coast's ASEC Mimosa in 2019 and he made an instant impact to help the team win the Italian youth title.

The Abidjan-born defensive midfielder captained Ivory Coast at youth level before he made his international debut for the Elephants in 2017.

Atalanta confirmed the 21-year-old died in his home country just before their Uefa Champions League loss to Real Madrid which ended 1-0 on Wednesday.

“President Antonio Percassi and the whole Atalanta family are deeply saddened by the untimely passing of Willy Braciano Ta Bi,” read a statement from the club website.

Article continues below

“A cruel fate prematurely interrupted a dream that had begun with the Nerazzurri shirt in January 2019.

“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.”

African legend Didier Drogba led his compatriots in mourning Ta Bi alongside Manchester United's Amad Diallo and several others.