Jermain Defoe has described Jose Mourinho as an "amazing human being" and revealed he called him following the death of Bradley Lowery.
Defoe had a close relationship with the six-year-old Sunderland fan, who died in July 2017 following a lengthy battle with neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer.
Following Mourinho's sacking by Manchester United on Tuesday, the Bournemouth striker said: "Not many people know this - I remember going through my stuff with Bradley and he (Jose) called me out of the blue.
"He said 'how are you? How's Bradley's family?' I was quite taken aback and really surprised.
"Away from football, he's an amazing human being. I wish him well for the future."
Mourinho was dismissed by United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward during a face-to-face meeting, Sky Sports News understands, with United 19 points behind leaders Liverpool in the Premier League.
However, Defoe says he has been shocked by the "negativity" surrounding three-time Premier League winner Mourinho, and believes United's loss could be another club's gain.
He said: "If I'm totally honest, I've been a little bit surprised with some of the negativity that's surrounded his name. Not just now but for the whole season, and maybe even last season.
"I'm one of those people - and it doesn't matter what sport it is - I always appreciate greatness. I think he's one of the greats.
"He's a legend and at the end of the day, some things just don't work out. As players, you go to clubs and it just doesn't work out.
"Looking forward, maybe he'll take a break and we'll see what happens. But I'm sure he won't be short of options."