Sunderland forward Duncan Watmore has received surprising support from reigning Spanish and European champions Real Madrid as he begins the long road to recovery after suffering a serious knee ligament injury for the second time in 11 months.
Having suffered a first knee injury last December, Watmore returned to action with the Black Cats at the end of September, only to be cruelly struck down with another cruciate problem just a few weeks later on 18th November.
But the 23-year-old, who originally made his name in non-league football with Altrincham, has been wished 'a smooth and speedy recovery' by Real president Florentino Perez. It is gesture that Watmore's father, Ian, former chief executive of the FA, has described as 'classy'.
Watmore Sr. took to Twitter on Tuesday afternoon to share a picture of the letter his son had received from the Bernabeu.
Signed on behalf of the president by Real legend turned Bernabeu director Emilio Butragueno, the letter was printed on Real headed paper and will surely serve as an inspirational boost to the player.
"Duncan went to rehab today to find this letter waiting for him. How classy is that from Real Madrid? I now hope they win the Champions League again!" Ian Watmore tweeted.
A teenage Watmore was picked up by Sunderland in 2013 after impressing for Altrincham in what was then known as the Conference North.
Affectionately dubbed 'The Ginger Messi' by fans, he scored 14 times in 37 league appearances, all the while studying for a degree in economics and business management.
He transferred from Manchester University to Newcastle University after making the switch to the north east and, upon graduation in 2015, became only the second Premier League player to earn a first class honours degree after ex-Leeds and Bradford defender David Wetherall.