Raheem Sterling has come to the defence of Manchester City team-mate Bernardo Silva after the Portuguese faced accusations of racism this week.
Midfielder Silva came under fire over a controversial tweet to City colleague Benjamin Mendy in which he posted pictures comparing the Frenchman, with whom he also played at Monaco, to the character on a packet of Conguitos chocolates.
Anti-discrimination body Kick It Out called on the Football Association to take action, referring to the contents of the post as a racist stereotype, while the governing body has been in contact with City requesting their observations.
Silva has since written to the FA expressing regret at any unintentional offence his tweet caused and, in the wake of City’s 3-1 win over Everton on Saturday night, Sterling showed his support for the Portugal international.
“It’s a situation that no one needs at this moment in time. It’s a situation between two friends, Bernardo and Mendy as everyone knows,” the England forward told Sky Sports.
“I can see exactly the point where some people can get touchy-feely on it, but I feel in that situation Bernardo made a joke to his friend.
“He’s not referred to his skin colour, he’s not referred to his lips in both pictures, they’ve both got small heads and the most important thing for me is that he didn’t refer to a colour.”
Silva could face a ban if found guilty of discriminatory behaviour, but Sterling does not believe that is the case.
He said: “We all know, Benjamin knows, everyone can see that Mendy is a black lad. We’ve got to be proud to be black as well. If someone refers to our skin colour with an image, I’d be upset about that – we know what skin colour we are.
“But he hasn’t referred to his skin colour, that’s the most important thing I feel about the situation. It’s really sad to see someone like Bernardo, the whole week, be kind of down about it because he’s not that way inclined.
“They’re two really good friends, it’s sad to see. I can understand where the criticism has come, but I don’t feel it was intentional of trying to be racist and that’s not because they’re my team-mates, it’s just how I view them.
“Bernardo’s deeply sorry about it. He’s not in the wrong for me, but at the same time I can see why people think it’s wrong and we’ve got to be smarter on social media. In this day and age anything you say can be judged and it’s a really sad situation.
“I haven’t really been looking into the newspapers. I’ve seen the situation but the club, as I always would believe, would handle the situation right and I feel the sooner the better the FA can understand there was no intent to be discriminatory, there’s not one moment he uses a negative term to talk about his skin colour.
“He tried to make a joke, it wasn’t the best one but we’ve got to move on and understand that it wasn’t intentional.”