Ben Brereton Diaz runs away from a game of cricket at Blackburn’s training ground.
Rovers players warm up on the club’s indoor pitch before hard work begins.
Bradley Dack is batting in front of a plastic wicket without bails and impressing the bowling line-up.
And Diaz sits down with a smile, then jokes: “I’m talking to you too—we’re never going to kick him out.”
It’s just another day at Blackburn training and he’s one of the boys. At least around Ewood Park. In Chile, things are very different.
The Stoke-born Diaz, 22, is the South American country’s new superstar and will be playing again tomorrow morning alongside global names like Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal.
The striker has so far topped the championship scoring charts with ten goals in 11 appearances with Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Now he’s also an amulet for Chilean fans – and they need to give it to him.
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Martín Lasart’s team will take on Peru, Paraguay and Venezuela in the next eight days and need a win amidst World Cup qualification threats.
Yet with five caps and one goal, the most unexpected in an international career, Diaz continues to capture the imagination of the country where his mother was born.
He has already appeared in a Chilean TV commercial for Pepsi.
As superstars go, he could hardly be more laid-back, admitting: “I’m still a little struggling learning Spanish, to be honest.
“My girlfriend and I are working with a tutor who is teaching us how the language is spoken in Chile.
“It’s difficult but we’re getting there.”
Fans and media in Chile want to know every detail about him.
In his final journey that ended in a 1–0 Copa America loss to Brazil in July, it was surprising that he ‘only’ drove a Mercedes, not a Lamborghini or a Ferrari, such is his star status.
Rovers boss Tony Mowbray, who paid Nottingham Forest £7 million for him in January 2019, said: “He was very young when he first arrived – he didn’t have a car, didn’t drive.
“And passing his exam? How many times did he try? I don’t know. A lot.
“But he’s got his merch now, he’s grown on his own, he’s more confident, he’s showing he’s a natural scorer.
He said, ‘He had to learn to take care of himself in a strict dressing room. And he also took that burden of his fees.
“So it was difficult for him to begin with.”
Diaz, her adopted name is a nod to her mother and new-star status in Chile, said: “I’m tougher and more physical and more confident now.
“I think I’ve got the South American edge in my game now and it’s showing in the way I’m scoring goals.
“My experiences have been amazing – like doing those commercials, playing with big stars.
“I am proud that I can now represent my mother’s side of the family but I am as proud as I am from Stoke and playing for Blackburn.
“I’m still one of the boys and I never forget where I came from and how hard I worked to get where I am.”