Joe Allen would not go as far as saying he is the ‘Welsh Xavi’, although he remains hopeful of playing a key role in helping Wales out of Group B at Euro 2016.
The Liverpool midfielder has even been nicknamed ‘Jesus’ in recent times, having grown his hair and beard, but Allen says he could do without the lofty comparisons.
“It’s a dangerous one because I had the ‘Welsh Xavi’ tag for a while and that didn’t really do me too many favours,” Allen said.
“The biblical references of recent times have been quite funny. I’m trying to steer myself away from the new one too. But I have got a sense of humour – I’m just an average Joe.”
Allen’s future at Liverpool remains far from guaranteed with just 12 months remaining on his contract, but for now he is keen to impress with Wales at the upcoming European championship, which he rates as one of the most important moments of his career.
“Qualifying was huge but to finally be just around the corner [from the finals] is what we have all been waiting for,” the 26-year-old added.
“Anyone would be lying if they said there hasn’t been a focus on this during the club season as well.
“It is such a huge occasion. We have been sick and tired of watching tournaments in previous summers.
“Representing your country on this stage is the stuff of dreams.
“To be totally honest, there was a stage where you wondered if we would ever get to this point.
“Deep down we still had the belief, but it took a lot to get us on this track, and being part of Wales playing in a major tournament has made us very proud.”
Allen and Wales take on Slovakia first up on Saturday, before a crunch game against England on June 16.
“Everyone knows they will have the weight of the world on their shoulders and we are the ones going in there with a fearless mentality,” he said.
“England’s players we know well from the Premier League – we have played against them numerous times and we will use that as much as we can in