By Tshepang Mailwane
Teko Modise was probably getting used to seeing positive newspaper headlines about him when driving to and from Orlando Pirates training sessions, the 27-year-old having risen to fame and fortune in a short time.
But this week the headlines were not so nice for the Bafana Bafana midfielder. He missed two Pirates training sessions last week, claiming to have an injury, and was said to be at loggerheads with head coach Ruud Krol.
All this came about after the Bucs's midfield general missed the Soweto derby and Krol said he would not field a player who was not interested in playing.
Truth is, Modise has just not been delivering on the field of play, for either the Buccaneers or Bafana Bafana.
The two-time Absa Premiership Footballer of the Season is most certainly having one horrible season, his worst one since joining SuperSport United from then Mvela Golden League side City Pillars in the 2006/2007 season.
His dip in form started in the Confederations Cup last June, after he had won the 2008/09 Absa Premiership Footballer of the Season award the month before. In Bafana's opening game against Iraq, Modise won the Man of the Match award. But that was the only game in which he starred. In all the other games, he was ordinary and had little to offer going forward.
His shooting from range was poor (the Fifa website shows that Modise had 15 shots at goal and that only one was on target) and his distribution left much to be desired.
Things did not get any better when the Absa Premiership kicked off in August, Modise failing to live up to expectations at Bucs.
There certainly is no denying that Modise has the talent in him, but could it be that the pressure on the man nicknamed General is just getting too much to handle?
His former coach at Pirates, Owen da Gama, who coached him for a season, could not agree more to this, saying too much pressure is placed on the player's shoulders.
"I've seen some good games that he has played, but he hasn't been at his best this season. We should stop putting pressure on him all the time. When I was at Pirates, he played more games than any other player, for Bafana and Pirates. We should protect him and that way he will play his normal game. I think he and Steven Pienaar are the best midfielders we have."
Krol has been playing Modise out on the left, away from his usual attacking midfield role, another reason Da Gama believes Modise has not been at his best.
"I played him behind the strikers and that's where he is more effective because he managed to score a few goals and create for others too."
Should his form not pick up anytime soon, Modise might find himself warming the bench when the World Cup kicks off in June. He's likely to get selected in the final squad, but a place in the starting line-up might not come as easily as it previously did.
He rejoined the Pirates team on Tuesday and even apologised for his untoward behaviour. Now he has to re-establish himself as the country's top star.
Tsholofelo Teko Modise
At a glance
Born: December 22, 1982
Place of Birth: Meadowlands, Soweto
Previous clubs: Ria Stars, City Pillars, SuperSport United
Games: 26; Goals: None
Games: 28; Goals: Four
Games: 25; Goals: Four
Games: 14 + 4 subs; Goals: None
Caps: 40; Goals: Nine
As a 19-year-old, Modise makes his debut for Ria Stars, against Wits University.
Stars became defunct at the end of the 2001/2002 season and Modise joined their neighbours, City Pillars, in the Mvela Golden League.
Modise and his teammates at Pillars narrowly lose out to Kaizer Chiefs in extra time in a last 16 game of the Nedbank Cup competition. Modise scores a brace.
Though Pillars did not do so well in the Mvela Golden League, Modise is named the league's Player of the Season.
Joins PSL club SuperSport United, coached by Pitso Mosimane, after his fine display in the Nedbank Cup the season before.
Having spent only one season with SuperSport, Modise makes a surprise move to Orlando Pirates, making his first appearance in the Telkom Charity Cup against Kaizer Chiefs.
Modise makes his debut in an official game for Bucs against Moroka Swallows.
He makes his debut for Bafana in the Cosafa Cup against Malawi. He also scores his first goal against Mauritius in this competition and wins the tournament's best player award.
He plays in his first African Nations Cup tournament, in Ghana, but struggles to make an impression amongst Africa's best players.
In only his first season with the Buccaneers, Modise wins the Premier Soccer League (PSL) Footballer of the Year.
He controversially retains the PSL Footballer of the Year.
Modise plays for Bafana in the Confederations Cup.