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The completely opposite pair have become beloved pundits on screen for Sky Sports, with Richards even managing to make the no-nonsense Keane smile and laugh.
Working with him hasn't ruined that illusion, but Richards' mind up was made up when he saw Keane back away from former Everton striker Duncan Ferguson.
"I watched some videos because a couple of these are before my time and the reason why he slipped down to number five is because of Duncan Ferguson," Richards said.
"That's what the young guys say 'smoke'."- Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) March 30, 2021
In the latest #MOTDTop10 podcast on @BBCSounds, @MicahRichards, @alanshearer and @GaryLineker discuss the hardest men in football.
Read all about it on the @BBCSport website.
"I was watching clips of Duncan and both Jaap Stam and Roy Keane walked away from a confrontation [with Ferguson].
"I was like, 'how hard are you really then?' Everyone did [walk away from Ferguson]. He's the ultimate hard man because nobody wants smoke with him.
"Roy Keane let me down, to be honest, because everybody talks about him as a hard man.
"He's nice with me [in their roles as Sky Sports pundits]. You guys [Lineker and Shearer] are legends of the game and Roy is in that category.
"So when you have to work with him, you've got respect. I love working with him. I couldn't compete with him as a player, with medals, but I can make him uncomfortable on camera."
Ferguson, incidentally, was named as the ultimate hardman by both Richards and Shearer, having been sent off a joint-record eight teams in his career.
Keane would go toe-to-toe with most players but even he admitted he didn't fancy it with the Everton legend.
"I used to stay away from him," Keane once said talking about Ferguson in 2014.
"We're talking about characters earlier and he's certainly that.
"He was a top, top player and he's obviously been promoted up the last two or three weeks to work with the first-team and no doubt the strikers at Everton will learn a lot from him."
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