Jermain Defoe says farewell to his 'best friend' Bradley Lowery as football pays tribute to mascot

Jermain Defoe has paid a loving tribute to inspirational Sunderland mascot Bradley Lowery, describing the young boy as his "best friend".

The footballer, who formed a close relationship with the cancer-suffering six-year-old, posted his memories of Bradley on Twitter a day after his death.

England striker Defoe shared photographs of the pair together along with his written tribute.

He wrote: "Goodbye my friend gonna miss u lots. I feel so blessed God brought u into my life and had some amazing moments with u and for that I'm so grateful.

"I'll never forget the way u looked at me wen I met u for the first time, the genuine love in those cute eyes.

Jermain Defoe said Bradley will 'never know what a difference (he) made to me as a person'. Credit: Jermain Defoe/Twitter

"Really finding it hard to find words to express what u mean to me. The way u say my name, ur little smiles wen the cameras come out like a little superstar and the love I felt wen I was with u.

"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."

Defoe had paid an emotional tribute to Bradley a day before his death on Friday as he met the press at his new club Bournemouth.

His former team-mates paid their respects with a minute's applause before a friendly match at Bury on Friday night hours after Bradley's family announced he had died.

Sunderland paid tribute to the mascot as an "inspiration" in a statement on its website as tributes came in from across the world of football and beyond.

Bradley had touched fans across the country for his optimism in the face of an untreatable child cancer.

"Bradley captured the hearts and minds of everyone at our club with his indomitable spirit, tremendous courage and beautiful smile, which could light up even the darkest of rooms," the club said.

"Despite battling neuroblastoma for much of his all too short life, he demonstrated a bravery and fortitude beyond his years that humbled us all. He was truly an inspiration."

The chant 'There's only one Bradley Lowery' became popular among Sunderland fans last season. Credit: PA

News of Bradley's death was met with a flurry of tweets as tributes were paid to the young boy.

England also paid tribute to Bradley, who accompanied his hero Jermain Defoe onto the pitch for the national team's World Cup qualifier against Lithuania in March.

Premier League champions Chelsea also shared a memorable moment the team's players shared with the young football fan.

Everton also shared a loving image of Bradley, who joined Sunderland as a mascot for the away game at Goodison Park last season.

Manchester City recalled his meeting with manager Pep Guardiola, who presented him with a signed shirt.

Bury FC earlier confirmed the applause in Bradley's honour before their match with Sunderland.

The club later announced the ticket sales for the match will be donated to the Bradley Lowery's Fight charity, which raises funds and awareness for other children facing child cancer neuroblastoma.

Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone said he was "heartbroken" as he paid a personal tribute on Instagram, which began: "I wished this day would never come."

Other current and former Premier League stars paid individual tributes: