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Atalanta fans make 50-mile detour for a surprise visit to their former star player

Atalanta fans making the journey from Bergamo to see their team play Austrian side Sturm Graz in the Europa League, made a stop in Maribor, Slovenia, not to visit the city's famous castle but to surprise a former player on Thursday.

Ex-players can come in for many different forms of treatment from their former fans, but Josip Ilicic, who spent five years at Atalanta, is still very much in the hearts of the club's supporters.

Atalanta fans visit Ilicic

Ilicic left the club in August 2022, his contract terminated by mutual agreement, after the player had struggled for some time with mental health issues.

The fans gave him an emotional send off before their home game with Torino on Sept. 1 2022, and over a year later it's clear just how heartfelt that farewell was.

Ilicic joined his former club NK Maribor a month after leaving Atalanta, and the fans from Bergamo arrived at the club's training ground on Thursday morning to surprise the 35-year-old Slovenian.

Two buses arrived, carrying 120 fans who had left Italy at midnight, and there were handshakes, hugs and chants for the beloved player, and plenty of photos taken with a visibly emotional and happy Ilicic.

The fans left him a present of the banner they had used on that farewell night in Bergamo last year, and Ilicic also confirmed he will be present at Atalanta's game with Sturm Graz later on Thursday night.

Atalanta and Sturm Graz drew 2-2.

(Reporting by Trevor Stynes, Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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