Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has spoken out in support of Bernardo Silva once again, declaring that a “joke” social media post involving Benjamin Mendy has sparked an unfair racism storm.
The Blues’ Portuguese playmaker took to social media on Sunday to share an image of former Monaco colleague and current City team-mate Mendy as a child.
He also likened the young Frenchman to Conguito, the mascot of a Spanish chocolate peanut brand.
Silva deleted the post within 45 minutes, amid a barrage of abuse, leading him to say: “Can’t even joke with a friend these days.”
His activity has become the subject of an investigation from the Football Association, with anti-discriminatory body Kick It Out calling for action to be taken by the relevant authorities.
Guardiola, though, claims to have been left baffled by the response to what was an innocent exchange between two players that he considers to be like brothers.
Having faced criticism himself for backing Silva, the Catalan was quizzed on the incident again at his latest pre-match press conference.
Guardiola told reporters: “We spoke many times about what happened in stadiums, regarding Bernardo I was incredibly clear. If the people believe Bernardo is this type of person they are completely wrong. They judge one joke, I judge three years with him.
“Bernardo, or anyone else in my squad, do this thing for a joke. Benjamin is like a brother to Bernardo, that is what I see every single day here.
“If someone feels bad for that tweet it can happen, but the people who judge Bernardo don’t know him. He’s an exceptional person. He likes to be involved in different situations.
“It [the picture] looked the same, it happens a thousand, million times with white people.”
Having learned of the FA’s plan to look into the incident, Guardiola said at the time: “I don’t know what is going to happen.
“They should put their focus on another issue because they don’t know which guy you are talking about.
“Bernardo is one of 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 to 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 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.
“There are many situations with people, with white people, and you look at a cartoon and the face is quite similar as your face and you put it in there.
“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.”