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PASSION IS BESIC INSTINCT; EVERTON v SWANSEA Today kick off 1.30pm; Tough tackler tells all.

Byline: Steve Bates

MANCHESTER CITY star Yaya Toure has first-hand evidence that reputations don't matter to Everton's Bosnian battler Muhammed Besic.

But Goodison's tenacious little big man is taking steps to prevent his own name becoming tarnished as he makes his way in English football.

The fiery 23-year-old Everton midfielder loves a tackle and admits he plays with an aggression and passion that can get him in trouble.

To loud Evertonian cheers, Besic sent City star Toure flying at Goodison Park in the 2-1 first-leg Capital One Cup semi-final victory and was booked for a tasty challenge in the Premier League game with Manuel Pellegrini's men, a few days later.

Chuck in a red card for throwing his chewing gum at Andorra opponent Victor Rodriguez in a Euro 2016 qualifier in September and it's clear Besic likes to mix it.

After Everton's league clash with Swansea today, Besic heads towards a defining moment in the Toffees' season with the semi-final second leg against City on Wednesday - and round two with giant Toure.

But Besic has revealed he's working on being calm and controlled rather than a loose canon.

"The fans liked my challenge on Yaya," he said. "I don't know if you could say I was proud of that, this is my quality. It is a natural quality, I don't train to play that way.

Passion "It just comes out. I think the fans like my strength first and then my technical ability because before I was a central defender, so I have always worked on the defensive side.

"Maybe it was just inside me, I don't go out of my way to show something like that. It is not that I want to be that player, it just comes out.

"I've played against Lionel Messi, Gareth Bale and all the big Premier League players. But I don't think about the big names before the game.

"When you say the names Messi, Bale, Yaya before the games, then you are worried a little bit. But when I play, I don't worry. I don't play against the name. It is just football. It is just one player, so I just play the game.

"It's good to have my passion, but the manager Roberto Martinez is teaching me to be a little more calm and to focus on football, so I am learning a lot."

The rush of blood against Andorra was a learning curve too and Besic said: "It was just emotion. But I can't do that because I am a professional footballer.

"I have that fire in my character when I play, so the difficulty is finding that balance. I have to be really patient with that. That is why I needed a bit of time and the manager is giving me that."

Besic, a PS4million bargain from Hungarian side Ferencvaros, was first spotted by Martinez man-marking Messi when Bosnia played Argentina in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Besic found life in the Bundesliga tough at Hamburg before he left for Hungary, but he believes his style is perfectly suited to the Premier League. He said: "I like to tackle and that's why Everton fans like me. The fans are different here, they appreciate tackling.

"In Germany, I would get more yellow cards. I like England, that's why I chose to come here. It suits my game."

Besic, is reticent to talk about work he does with a children's charity back in Bosnia but, since becoming a father himself last year, it has helped him mellow.

"My daughter is only six months old, but being a father has helped me grow mentally too," he said. "On the pitch, I was sometimes too angry, but being a father has helped me focus."

Even so, there's little chance of his fire being completely extinguished.

"I don't want to see another red card - but you never know. I am in a good place now. I feel in control. And I don't think I will ever get sent off again for throwing chewing gum!" NUMBER CRUNCHER GARETH BARRY, 34, has run 261.6km in the Premier League this season - only Bournemouth's Andrew Surman has covered more ground (266.0km).

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TAKING NO PRISONERS Muhammed Besic shackles Yaya Toure and (below left) Gareth Bale
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jan 24, 2016
Words:711
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