In Gareth Bale’s first season as a Real Madrid Galactico, the Welshman scored a goal that would have made him a hero for life at any other club.
Bale picked up the ball inside his own half, started sprinting, left Barcelona defender Marc Bartra in his dust and won the 2014 Copa del Rey for Real.
In the aftermath, the camera cut to an injured Cristiano Ronaldo celebrating in the stands. In the absence of Madrid’s main man, the £86million signing stepped up.
Yet Bale soon discovered memories are short at the Bernabeu, where the harshest fans in football are housed. By the start of the next season, questions were being asked of his ability all over again.
Bale’s sensational solo-goal against their greatest rivals in the dying minutes of a domestic cup final had been forgotten, because they were waiting to see what he did next.
Ronaldo knows how that feels. The Portugal superstar signed for Real in 2009 but it took him several years to properly win over the fans too, with the boo boys never far away.
As Kaka said in March 2016: ‘I would like the supporters to have more respect for Cristiano. You can still hear whistles against him. That’s not right when you think of all he has done for the club.’
They are not the easiest audience to please at the European champions, then. Never satisfied; always wanting more.
In the Champions League final against Liverpool, Bale was only brought on after an hour by Zinedine Zidane amid tensions between the two. He scored twice in Kiev, including an outrageous overhead kick, and went on to win the man of the match award.
Repeat that at Manchester United, who we know have long been monitoring his seemingly unsettled situation in Madrid, and it would have been instant box office.
This season, however, Bale started with a clean slate. That is the way it works at the Bernabeu and, so far, he has answered his critics by scoring a goal a game in his three La Liga appearances.
With Ronaldo gone, Bale is now the out-ball that defenders and midfielders look for. He stands over free-kicks and has been handed freedom by Julen Lopetegui.
Against the Republic of Ireland on Thursday, Bale scored his 30th international goal, finding the top corner from 20 yards. Anyone watching could see the confidence in his game.
Now 29 years old, he is expected to be at his best. When Ronaldo was at Real, Bale was considered an understudy. With the superstar now at Juventus, the responsibility is all his.
Bale’s pace may have slowed but so did Ronaldo’s, and the former Manchester United man found a way to keep himself relevant at the top of the scoring charts.
This season, Bale is averaging his highest shots-per-game ratio since signing for Real (4.34 in La Liga) and he is averaging a goal or assist per 62 minutes.
It is early days, of course, and fitness will continue to be a particular talking point.
Bale has suffered 11 injuries in total since moving to Spain. After his Champions League final heroics, it was estimated that he had been unavailable for 40 of Real’s last 60 matches.
So the Welshman has a point to prove if he is to reign in Spain.
Real showed what they think in the summer by keeping their money in their pocket rather than signing a replacement for Ronaldo, who they received £99.2m for.
They have banked on Bale becoming their rejuvenated Galactico rather than buying a brand new one. Finally, he is out of Ronaldo’s shadow, and we will now see whether he can handle the spotlight. So far, so good.