Yann M'Vila arrived at Sunderland in the summer with a wild reputation.
But the 25-year-old French midfield ace has been a revelation at Sunderland, picking up just one booking all season.
It was his antics off the field that led to his bad-boy image ahead of his arrival at the Stadium of Light and he has now lifted the lid on an alleged axe-wielding incident while living in Moscow.
He was accused of allegedly trashing his rented home following a dispute when he was training with Dynamo Moscow, with a view to signing from Rubin Kazan.
As talk of an extortion racket targeting the players mounted, it was claimed M’Vila kept an axe at home for his own protection, report the Guardian.
"Let's talk about this axe," said M'Vila in today's national press when asked to explain what happened in Russia.
"I never had one personally. There was one in the house, but it was the landlord's. Let's be honest, if a Russian turned up with a gun and I've got an axe, who is going to win that fight?
"I've done some bad things in my life, I've made some mistakes, but every time I have always admitted it, I've paid for it. But I would say that I always tell the truth."
He laughed off claims of a trashed apartment, adding: "I always paid my rent. Everything was absolutely fine and in order."
M'Vila has been open about his 'tough upbringing' since arriving in the North East. He is grateful for the support shown to him by Sunderland fans this season, ahead of the biggest Tyne-Wear derby in a generation.
"You have to understand that from the tough background that I come from, it's very hard to succeed," he said.
"Thank God, I have football and I've managed to earn a living from it, so I'm very grateful for that.
"But I think without a doubt I've matured a lot now. In the past perhaps I would like to wind opponents up a little bit.
"Look at the stats this season. I've played about 30 games and I've had one yellow card.
"The fans have bought me a lot of confidence and when you hear them singing a song just for you, it makes you feel special."
Meanwhile, Sunderland’s squad have used the two-week break from Premier League action productively, with the Black Cats at near full-strength for the Tyne-Wear derby.
Long-term casualty Duncan Watmore and new signing Emmanuel Eboue are the only headaches for Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce, who has Jeremain Lens and Lee Cattermole back at his disposal.
Both Lens and Cattermole featured in last week’s behind-close-doors friendly against Livingston, with Seb Larsson and Younes Kaboul also getting valuable minutes after recently returning from injury.
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And finally, Allardyce has today been speaking about new Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez ahead of the Tyne-Wear derby.
The pair famously fell out when the Spaniard was previously managing in the Premier League and Allardyce hit out at him in his autobiography.
But Big Sam says their previous feud is 'water under the bridge' ahead of Sunday.
Allardyce said: "I didn't expect to see him at Newcastle, I have to say.
"But I did expect to see him back in the Premier League because I knew he still has a property on the Wirral and has been back there several times when he's been between jobs."