Last season saw Gareth Bale score a wonder goal in the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona of all teams, a dream goal to win the Spanish Cup. Then came the Champions League final, extra time against city rivals and probably the team of the season Atletico Madrid.
The Welsh winger flew in at the far post to get a vital goal to give Real Madrid the lead. They eventually won 4-1 to complete "La Decima". With 22 goals and 12 assists from out-wide, it was a stellar first season to say the least.
Bale looked very sharp in pre-season, seeming to carry on where he left off last term. Sometimes though the higher you climb, the harder you fall. A game against Espanyol in January and a missed opportunity to pass to Ronaldo was all the media needed.
Ronaldo's reaction of back-heeling toys from his pram sent the vultures of the media world into furore. You can only imagine the weight of the world media and madridista mob on the shoulders of the young Welshman, not to mention he's the most expensive player in the history of the game playing for the most successful team in Europe.
What a burden
A shocking performance followed in the Champions League away to Schalke where Bale didn't attempt a single dribble with his confidence sucked away. More recently his stats in the first leg against Juventus read as if he'd been sat in the stands. 0 Goals 0 Assists 0 chances created 0 Crosses 0 Tackles. His 32 touches were less than goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
A player like Bale needs confidence as his game is based on instinct. Beating players and scoring goals doesn't involve much predetermination, it just happens. But if the confidence is absent there is doubt and pause. In the back of the player's mind, a knowledge of the reaction to his failure. His mind's creative capacity engaged in tomorrows back pages rather than the back of the net.
Could the negative media really be the catalyst for sporting failure at the highest stage?
Surely form, technique, tactics, team cohesion and luck all play a more prominent role in sporting success, but when a player or team is derailed the mob mentality can certainly be an obstacle in getting back on track.
I'm not saying we shouldn't criticise a player or team when they don't perform, I just think sometimes a player becomes the target of unjustified negative attention.
Wayne Rooney experienced this in the run up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. All talk was geared to his earnings (a favourite of the haters), his scoring record in the international competition at the time of zero goals and even talk of the need to drop him to the bench.
A man who is now two goals away from the all-time England scoring record and two goals away from being the second highest goalscorer in Premier League history.
For me the most talented English footballer of his generation, why wouldn't we be getting behind this talent and giving him the sense that we believe he will succeed? There were at least three moments at the World Cup where an unshackled Rooney would have surely scored but the doubt and pause were evident and the instinctive fire choked.
Could this have been avoided? Or are England doomed to fail at the highest stage regardless of the media? Is the power of the press and public opinion something that simply needs to be overcome by a professional athlete?
It's unlikely to ever cease as the only way the media will refrain from publishing harsh criticism is if the public stop buying it.
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