Jermain Defoe broke down on Thursday as he reflected on his relationship with six-year-old terminally ill Sunderland supporter Bradley Lowery.
Lil Bradley suffers from the rare childhood cancer neuroblastoma but Defoe has forged a close friendship with the boy and his mother Gemma.
Defoe met Bradley when the youngster was a mascot for a Sunderland game last season and the pair's relationship has captured the hearts of many across the country in recent months.
The family threw a party on Saturday, which Defoe attended, but in a statement on Wednesday, the family revealed that Bradley is close to 'going with the angels'.
The family, from County Durham, said: 'He has been very close to going with the angels but he pulls himself out of it.
'It is a hard time for us waiting and watching for our baby to take his last breath.
'He started with fighting and he is ending with fighting.'
Speaking at his unveiling upon signing for Bournemouth, Defoe held back tears as he paid an emotional tribute to young Bradley: 'It has been difficult... It has been hard. I have kept this in for so long.
'I have tried to be strong for my family and his family but I don't know how to put in words how I feel. It is a special time, having that special time with Brads.
'The first moment I met him and 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 run 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. It was so tough to see a kid of that age going through it for so long. It 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. What can I say? 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.'
The young boy from County Durham has become an international figure of bravery as thousands followed his fight against a rare form of cancer online.
Earlier in the week an update informed wellwishers that the boy's condition was 'deteriorating fast'.