Pep Guardiola believes Raheem Sterling can reach the level of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
England manager Gareth Southgate this week said the Manchester City forward as the potential to become as good as the multiple Ballon d’Or winners after two fine displays in the recent international break.
His club boss Guardiola has now backed up those claims – although the Spaniard has given mixed messages on whether he believes Sterling should read much into such hype.
Sterling, 24, has made a blistering start to the new season, scoring eight goals in seven games for club and country.
“I’m so happy for him, for the way he’s playing here and with the national team, but hopefully he won’t read too much,” said Guardiola at a press conference on Friday.
“He cannot listen to these kind of things – that wouldn’t be good for him, because nobody can compare with Cristiano or Messi.
“I’m so happy with what he’s done since we’ve been together, not just right now. Everything that has happened to him has been good because he has an incredible work ethic and is an incredibly nice guy. I’m delighted for him.”
However, later in the same press conference, Guardiola appeared to suggest that what he says to Sterling in private might be different.
He said: “It would be a dream for him for all of us. If Raheem can target that level – wow.
“We will be here to help him and of course he can do it but I will not be the guy to put limits to cancel it, to say don’t don’t think about that. No, absolutely not – I want it.
“But right now, nobody but not in this club, or in all the clubs in the world, can compare with these two guys and what they have done every single week during 10 years.
“They are absolute legends and nobody can compare, nobody.”
Guardiola, speaking ahead of the Premier League champions’ trip to Norwich on Saturday, revealed he expects defender Aymeric Laporte to be sidelined until January or February after undergoing knee surgery last week.
John Stones is fit to return at Carrow Road after a thigh injury but, after the departure of Vincent Kompany at the end of last season, City are short of specialist centre-backs.
That has raised speculation the club may look to buy in the January transfer window but Guardiola has played that down.
He said: “My advice to you is not to write too many names about the winter transfer window because you are going to make a mistake. I don’t think it’s going to happen.
“I heard already we are interested in this player or the other player but I would like to say to all the clubs in the world don’t be nervous, because we are not interested in any players or central defenders in Europe.
“We are going to survive with the players we have.”