Real Madrid have given Sunderland forward Duncan Watmore an unexpected lift as he faces another battle with serious injury.
Only weeks after returning from cruciate ligament damage, the 23-year-old suffered a similar problem, which could see him sidelined for the best part of a year.
The former England Under-21 international managed only six matches before suffering a relapse in a 2-2 draw with Millwall last month, but the Santiago Bernabeu club have apparently helped to ease some of the mental pain by sending the player a letter of support.
Duncan went to rehab today to find this letter waiting for him. How classy is that from @realmadrid? I now hope they win the Champions League again! pic.twitter.com/0D4rLIw5Wc — Ian Watmore (@ianwatmore) December 5, 2017
“To get the letter was a total surprise but what an incredible gesture from a very classy club,” Ian Watmore, the player’s father, told the BBC.
“It has given Duncan a real lift. He sent me a picture of it on WhatsApp as he left the training ground and I asked if I could tweet it. The reaction has been great.
“His situation is just awful really. We don't know how long he will be out this time but I would be surprised if he is back before September or October next year.
“If he was a world-famous player maybe you'd expect it. It was totally out of the blue.
“What an incredible gesture.”
Ian believes it was Watmore becoming the first Championship player to sign up for Juan Mata’s Common Goal charity that caught the eye of the European champions.
“Mata's charity is followed very closely by the Spanish media, so I suspect Real Madrid have picked up on what happened to Duncan that way,” he explained.
“Either that or Chris Coleman his manager has said something to Gareth Bale through their relationship at the Wales international level.
“But for the club to think of him and send a letter is wonderful.”
And Ian is confident his son can come back as strong as ever from the setback.
“It happened through a freak accident,” he said. “It's not an inherent weakness in the knee.
“It was just one of those weird footballing things that can happen. The same surgeon who rebuilt his knee last year has already operated again.
“Duncan came through England Under-21s with players like Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Will Hughes and Jordan Pickford. So while they're all emerging on the Premier League scene he's stuck in the slow lane again, which is very difficult for him.
“But it doesn't help mentally when you think about what could have been. You have to deal with the situation as it is and Duncan is good at that.”