Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has defended Bernardo Silva after the midfielder attracted plenty of criticism for a controversial tweet regarding Benjamin Mendy.
Silva compared Mendy to the mascot of Spanish chocolate brand Conguitos, which the Frenchman recognised was a joke, although Silva later deleted the post after many accused him of being racist.
Breaking: @kickitout “extremely disappointed” & “shocked” by “offensive” Bernardo Silva tweet.— Dan Roan (@danroan) September 23, 2019
“Racist stereotypes are never acceptable as ‘banter’, and we’re shocked that someone who is a role model to millions has failed to understand the discriminatory nature of his post” pic.twitter.com/It0ruk964t
Anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out have condemned the tweet but Guardiola, who was speaking after City's 3-0 win over Preston on Tuesday (via Sky Sports), defended Silva and insisted there was nothing racist about the joke.
He said: "Bernardo is one of the most lovely people I ever met in my life. He speaks four or five languages and that is the best way to understand how open-minded he is and one of his best friends is Mendy. He's like a brother for him.
"The image is not about the colour of the skin. He took a picture of Benjamin when he was young and he related it to this cartoon, which was quite similar for the image.
"If they want to do that [investigate] and ask for Bernardo, I think he will be open to talk. But first, you have to know exactly which person you are talking about.
"I think the response from Mendy was clear after that. They are joking all the time. Maybe what I say as advice is to hide social media…if something happened it would be a mistake.
"Bernardo is an exceptional person. A guy who can speak five languages, it's because he's open-minded - nothing about the colour of the skin, nationalities or whatever."
The pair both joined City from Monaco in 2017 and have remained close friends. They can regularly be seen joking together, although many have claimed that this latest joke has crossed a line.
The FA are investigating the issue themselves, although it appears as though Guardiola will not look to punish Silva for his behaviour.