Luis Suarez wants to be a role model
Luis Suarez has told Sports Illustrated that he has made a conscious effort this past year to change the public perception of him, with the Uruguay striker keen to be seen as a role model rather than a bad boy.
The 27-year-old's image had reached an all-time low last summer, with the striker agitating for a move away from Liverpool and serving a lengthy ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic.
Suarez, though, has managed to put the negative headlines behind him, netting 31 goals in a remarkable campaign in which he swept up the end-of-season awards.
Furthermore, there has been a vastly improvement in the behaviour of the Uruguay international, currently attempting to recover from a knee injury in time for the World Cup.
"I want to change the bad boy image that has stuck for a bit because I don't think I am at all how I have been portrayed," Suarez told Sports Illustrated. "I would like that to change because it's awful to hear and read what is said of you.
"On the field, sometimes passion overwhelms you and you do things you regret afterward. At the same time, you have a chance to learn from those things.
"I think I [have] been a role model since last summer; I have been professional, and I have the desire to forge ahead and play well regardless of what is said to me."
Asked if, like former NBA player Charles Barkley once suggested, athletes should not be role models, Suarez said: "Of course they should be. Many times, [athletes'] attitudes are reflected in their performance on the field.
"I've had some attitudes on the field that weren't very good for my image. But those weren't really me -- outside the field, I'm very shy. I realised I had to adjust my attitude on the field, to continue to play well but without the bad attitude."
Part of that change has seen Suarez make more of an attempt to stay on his feet since moving to the Premier League -- not that he thinks his reputation for diving his fair, anyway.
"How many yellow cards do I have for diving? I have a lot of yellow cards in my career, but most are for arguing, for fighting, for giving a kicking -- not for diving,'' he added. "Sometimes I fall, but it's to get a penalty because I have been kicked."