Much bigger than football is the undeniable bond and friendship which was struck up between Jermain Defoe and avid Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery, and following his brave fight with neuroblastoma which sadly ended on Friday, Defoe has paid a truly remarkable tribute to his 'best friend'.
Their friendship started through their mutual love of football and Sunderland Football Club, and with regular mascot appearances and Defoe's visits to both the six-year-old's home and hospital the pair quickly became inseparable.
In a tribute posted on his official Twitter account, Defoe said his final farewell to Bradley.
“I'll never ever forget the way you looked at me for the first time, the genuine love in those cute eyes. Really finding it hard to express what you mean to me.
“The way you say my name, your little smiles when the cameras come out like a 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.”
Honestly, what Jermaine Defoe has done for Bradley Lowery simply out of the kindness of his heart is truly admirable. He's a good man.— #4 (@LosoLFC) July 7, 2017
Tributes continue to poor in following Bradley's passing on Friday from a rare form of cancer -