Gaizka Mendieta will have an extra incentive during Spain's World Cup campaign -- to prove to the world that reports of his decline have been greatly exaggerated.
Mendieta's swashbuckling form at the heart of the Valencia midfield took the Spanish club to two Champions League finals and persuaded Lazio to pay $41 million to sign him in July 2001.
Since then he has experienced nothing but frustration, failing to impress during his early appearances and then dropping out of the team altogether.
Even a proposed loan deal with Athletic Bilbao, that might at least have got him back playing regularly, did not come off.
His lifeline last season was the Spanish national team, with coach Jose Antonio Camacho keeping faith with a player he knows possesses an immense talent.
He may not be in the starting line-up for Spain's first group B game against Slovenia on Sunday, with competition for midfield places particularly fierce, but as a Camacho favourite he has a good chance of being called upon at some stage.
"I want to play, first and foremost," Mendieta said from Spain's training base on Thursday. "I haven't had a chance to demonstrate what I can do recently.
"The World Cup is always important for everyone involved but for me this year it's even more so. It's an opportunity to show people that what happened in Italy wasn't a fair reflection of my ability.
"Camacho is clear on what type of players he needs for each game. He also knows all about me and knows what sort of a job I can do."
When Mendieta did appear last season he was a long way short of the sort of form that saw him named by UEFA as the best midfielder in Europe for two years running.
Since joining up with the Spanish squad two weeks ago he has been regaining confidence, though, and he is unconcerned about his current level.
"I don't think I'm at a lower level now," he said. "There are moments in football when you're playing better or worse but you don't lose the ability you have.
"This World Cup is very important to me. I've been preparing for it for a long time, working hard and mentally I'm now ready."