Raheem Sterling has defended his Manchester City team-mate Bernardo Silva after accusations of racism following a tweet the Portugal forward sent to team-mate Benjamin Mendy.
Silva posted an image on social media in which Mendy was compared to a character on a packet of Conguitos – a sweet available in Spain and Portugal.
The tweet drew criticism from anti-racism group Kick It Out.
“I don’t feel there’s any racism in it,” said Sterling.
“It’s a situation between two friends, Bernardo and Mendy, as everyone knows. 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 the pictures they’ve both got small heads, you know. The most important thing for me is he didn’t refer to a colour.”
The Football Association has contacted City for their observations while Silva has written to the governing body to say he regrets the fact his social media post may have unintentionally caused offence.
Mendy has also written in support of Bernardo, saying he did not take offence.
Sterling, who is a committed anti-racism campaigner, said Silva has struggled this week because of the attention the tweet has attracted.
Speaking to Sky Sports after the Premier League champions won 3-1 at Everton on Saturday, Sterling added: “I feel 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. I keep going on about it, they’re really good friends, it’s really sad to see.
“He’s not in the wrong for me but at the same time I can see where people think it’s wrong and we just need to be smarter on social media.
“We understand in this day and age anything you say and anything you do can quickly be judged and it’s really just a sad situation in this moment in time.
“There’s not one moment he uses a negative term to speak about his skin colour so that’s the most important thing. He tried to make a joke and that joke wasn’t the best, but we’ve got to move on and understand it was not intentional.”