Football heroes don’t come much less loveable than Carlos Tevez and Luis Suarez.
When we choose our sporting idols here in the UK, success helps of course but as long as they look the part, speak well, smile a lot, and talk nicely to children they’re halfway there.
Much like our own rather prickly Ashley Cole, these two sassy South Americans don’t really match the criteria. Not that we’d really know; their voices remain largely unheard.
Tales of infidelity, run-ins with the law, on-pitch con artistry, allied with various accusations of gamesmanship, provocation, foul play, discrimination, selfishness and disloyalty haven’t helped reputations.
With attitudes perceived as distinctly un-British, both Latinos have for one reason or another made more enemies than friends outside of Manchester and Liverpool. And neither man, you sense, is the slightest bit bothered.
Nor to be frank, am I.
They’re not in PR. These two are paid to play football, and they play it very, very well.
When it comes to their forward play you couldn’t find two better role models than Carlos Tevez and Luis Suarez.
With and without the ball, the pair set standards which every young striker in this country should be aspiring to emulate.
How many times have we screamed at lazy strikers, urging them to put some effort in? Watch these two closely. They don’t stop moving.
Hands aren’t slumped on hips, they don’t idle around the centre circle having a chinwag with the centre-halves; they’re not standing still remodelling their hairstyle for the cameras. They’re diligent and they’re switched on in the extreme.
Always on their toes, Tevez and Suarez will close opponents down with an intensity that embarrasses others. Yes, they’ll clatter into the odd defender with a late challenge that makes them look naughty, but that’s an inevitability when you don’t go through the motions. Committed pressing, requires an element of risk.
If a team-mate gets the ball you can rest assured these two will be offering an outlet. Whether it’s coming short to show for it to feet, or spinning into holes that defenders are trying to protect, there’s a constant willingness to run, and to make things happen.
On the ball, both men play without inhibitions. There’s no fear of failure. Direct, positive and with only one thing in mind – scoring – they put defenders on the back foot every time they take possession.
Put simply, they’re hungry to win.
While not too many youngsters in this country have been brought up in so much poverty they’re unable to afford their own boots (like both Tevez and Suarez), I think it’s too easy to claim that people with troubled, poor backgrounds magically have more desire to succeed.
It’s played a part, but these are two multi-millionaire footballers who’ve earned the right to relax. It’s just that they don’t want to. It’s not in their DNA.
Tevez and Suarez have an unmistakable edge; just like Wilshere, Cole, Rooney, Gerrard, Van Persie and co. To be a top player it’s an essential ingredient.
Are we producing enough players with that edge? I don’t think so.
These days our most promising young kids are treated like Princes in the club academies.
Pulled out of Sunday League football with their mates, banned from representing their schools for fear of burn-out, and coached in a clinical, stress-free environment from the age of 7, we’re making life pretty cosy for the next generation.
On less than £50 a week I performed ‘duties’ after training such as cleaning the toilets, scrubbing the dressing rooms, polishing boots, and pumping up balls. For youth team players in my day, there was a clear incentive to make the grade.
Nowadays pampered trainees don’t have to lift a finger. They drive home in their flash motors, lie down on the sofa and kick back for an afternoon of X-Box. Picking up big wages in their teens, you wonder just how much motivation is left inside.
When they do make it, many appear more interested in the bright lights of celebrity than they do the day job. Most do enough, but do they always push themselves to the absolute limit? I have my reservations.
In the Premier League, when I’m looking to see British bulldog spirit, a never-say-die attitude and a fierce desire to win, few come close to South American duo Carlos Tevez and Luis Suarez.
They have no interest in being famous. All they care about is being the most successful professional they can be.
This pair might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but that’s a fine example to set. I wish more of our own were built that way.
Read more from the former pro turned journalist, Adrian Clarke