Pep Guardiola has joked he would ban Manchester City players from social media if it made them play as well as Raheem Sterling.
Sterling, who revealed last year that he had cut down his usage of forums such as Instagram and Twitter, has been in the form of his life this season.
The 22-year-old has already scored a career-best 13 goals this term.
City manager Guardiola said: “He’s a nice guy, loved in the locker room, stable, less into social media, more focused on football and his private life. That’s good.
“But if the reason why he’s scored a lot of goals is because he’s out of social media then I’ll say it to all the players! It’s not about that. I think before he was more active and now he’s more passive.”
Sterling became a target for trolls during his protracted move to City from Liverpool in 2015 and also suffered heavy criticism while on international duty with England at Euro 2016.
It was soon after that he came under the tutelage of Guardiola, but the former Barcelona boss insists he imposed no social media bans when he arrived at the Etihad Stadium.
He said: “They are free to do whatever they want but sometimes they put a picture up and they have 30million comments criticising them and you can avoid it.
“People insult you and people criticise you because you show a picture. If you want to do it there is no problem but people can criticise your family because of how they dress or which beach they are enjoying. Why?
“Enjoy it for yourself or your family and your friends. Nobody has to know what they are doing in their private lives. That is my opinion but there is no rule. We just have our advice as a club.”
Sterling improved steadily under Guardiola last season but his development appears to have accelerated again this term. Not only has he been finding the net regularly but a number of his goals have also been critical, including late winners against Bournemouth, Huddersfield and Southampton in the Premier League.
Despite being praised for his input, Guardiola refuses to take credit.
Speaking at a press conference to preview the leaders’ clash with West Ham on Sunday, Guardiola said: “I didn’t discover Raheem. The quality in the last action is his talent.
“He did that at Liverpool, he played amazing. That’s why City paid a lot of money.
“I don’t feel guilty if he’s not playing good and at the same time I don’t feel responsibility for Raheem playing good. All the credit goes to him.”