An emotional Jermain Defoe broke down as he reflected on his special bond with terminally-ill Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery.
Defoe, speaking on Thursday afternoon at a press conference staged by Bournemouth to unveil their new signing, requested time to compose himself when asked about the six-year-old.
The two struck up a friendship when Bradley, who is suffering from a rare type of cancer called neuroblastoma, was a mascot for Sunderland while Defoe was at the club.
Defoe spent time with his “best pal” last week and he wiped away tears as he revealed it is “probably a matter of days” until Bradley loses his battle with the illness.
“It has been difficult. I have kept this in for so long,” Defoe said.
“I have tried to be strong for my family and his family but I don’t know how to put into words how I feel. It’s a special time, having that special time with Brads.
“The first moment I met him I could not believe he was the young kid who was ill because he ran over to me. From that moment, there was an instant connection.
“I knew he would be mascot but I hadn’t seen a picture and he just ran over to me. His energy in the changing rooms, bossing the other kids about – a great character.
“I speak to the family every day and I was with him a few days ago. It was tough to see him suffer like that.
“I felt like I was prepared for it after what I went through previously with my dad (Defoe’s father Jimmy died of throat cancer in 2012). It was so tough to see a kid of that age going through it for so long.
“It’s got to the stage where he is obviously struggling. I can say it is probably a matter of days. He will always be in my heart for the rest of my life.
“We are there for the family, even going forward. It is difficult. It puts stuff into perspective.
“There is not a day that goes past where I do not wake up in the morning and check my phone or think about little Bradley because his love is genuine and I can see it in his eyes. It is special.”