Jermain Defoe has released a heartbreaking tribute to his best friend Bradley Lowery.
Figures from the football world and beyond have paid tribute to the six-year-old boy, who lost his long battle against neuroblastoma on Friday.
But Bradley, a massive Sunderland fan, struck up a close friendship with England striker Defoe – who has now spoken out for the first time since Bradley’s death.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Defoe said: ‘Goodbye my friend gonna miss you lots. I feel so blessed God brought you into my life and had some amazing moments with you and for that I’m so grateful.
‘I’ll never ever forget the way you looked at me when I met you for the first time, the genuine love in those cute eyes.
‘Really finding it hard to find words to express what you mean to me.
‘The way you say my name, your little smiles when the cameras come out like a little superstar and the love I felt when I was with you.
‘Your courage and bravery will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life. You will never know what a difference you made to me as a person. God has you in his arms and I will always carry you in my heart.
‘Sleep tight little one. My best friend.’
The pair struck up an immediate bond after Bradley featured as a mascot for Sunderland in the Premier League.
Defoe regularly visited Bradley and his family as the youngster’s condition worsened, and pictures of them cuddling were posted by the Lowery family.
The footballer, now of Bournemouth, broke down in a press conference earlier this week while speaking about his friend.
Bradley passed away in his parents’ arms but captured the hearts of the nation during his battle with the rare form of cancer.