Pep Guardiola sees Raheem Sterling’s increasing involvement in community life back where he grew up as evidence of the player’s growing maturity off the field.
The Manchester City and England forward has plans to open a football academy for children from deprived areas in north London.
This week the 24-year-old also backed a campaign to save a leisure centre close to his heart in the Brent Park area of the capital from being sold off.
Other examples of his generosity include making a substantial donation to the fund for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and joining an appeal to help a 12-year-old cancer sufferer find a stem cell donor.
“It’s incredible. When Raheem does this kind of gesture it’s because it’s going to help the people,” said Guardiola, Sterling’s manager at City.
“If he’s more mature, (I’m) sure in a few years will be (even) more mature too.
“Life was so generous and was nice for him so far, in terms of the profession he does and everything. He can contribute and make a better society for other people. That is incredible, just to say thank you for the nice things he has done.”
Sterling’s latest gestures come amid a fine season that has seen him score 12 goals for club and country. City recently rewarded him for his form with a new five-year contract, while off the field he has also been widely applauded for taking a vocal stand against racism.
Guardiola feels it is no coincidence that Sterling appears to be improving on the field at the same time as he is maturing off it.
“Yes of course,” said Guardiola when asked at a press conference if there was a link between the two.
“People say, ‘People in sport cannot do anything, cannot speak about politicians, cannot do some justice’.
“But if he believes in doing that, that’s a good thing, that’s nice. I appreciate it. As part of society, that’s good.
“He and many people are doing a lot of things for the kids – Juan Mata, Vincent Kompany. Many many people do these things and other people don’t notice.
“I am pretty sure they do it because they feel better. It’s nice, I like it.”
City’s season continues as they host Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday, the first of five games over 16 days that could test the depth of Guardiola’s squad.
Guardiola said: “In the last game against Leicester, John Stones played the holding midfield position for Fernandinho and was incredible in the way he played. That’s important, to see the players in different positions so when we have problems we can give time.
“We needed to do that. If not, then in February we will die. Until the end of January, it’s incredible the amount of games we have.”
Guardiola also gave a start 19-year-old Brahim Diaz in the Carabao Cup quarter-final win at Leicester but the forward’s future is still unresolved. The Spaniard is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked with Real Madrid.
“We are working for him to stay here but I don’t know exactly what the situation is,” Guardiola said.