Gareth Bale is Wales. There is no denying the Real Madrid star's importance to his national team.
With Bale in the team, the Dragons are a side capable of reaching the semi-finals of major tournaments, just as they did in the summer of 2016 when the one-time world's most expensive player inspired Chris Coleman's men to the Euro 2016 last four.
With Bale out of the team, the Dragons are a side unable to reach major tournaments, just as they now have done following the Republic of Ireland's determined and disciplined 1-0 win in Cardiff.
The €100 million man watched from the stands, having to sit out Wales' last two qualifiers with a calf injury, which is also could rule him out of Madrid's Champions League clash with Bales' former club Tottenham on October 17.
James McClean's goal in Cardiff sent Ireland into the playoff, leaving Wales in third in Group D and out of the 2018 World Cup. Wales dominated Ireland throughout, keeping possession, putting Ireland on the back foot but always lacked a killer instinct. The kind of killer instinct that Bale can provide.
Bale is often pilloried for his performances with Madrid, where he has received boos from the fans as well as criticism from pundits who attack the 28-year-old for failing to live up to his lofty price tag. When he returns home to Wales, he is rightly seen as a national hero. The country's best-ever player and a real difference maker for Coleman's side.
With the former Spurs attacker in the team, Coleman's side have won 48 per cent of their games. Without Bale, Wales under Coleman have now won just 15 per cent of their matches. He has 26 goals in 68 international appearances, including key strikes against Georgia and Serbia in the current campaign which should have put Wales on the road to Russia.
Instead, Tom Lawrence and Ben Woodburn were asked to provide the spark for the Dragons, but against Ireland neither seemed capable of producing a moment of magic. As news filtered through of results from other games, it turned out that a draw would not be enough for the Welsh to reach the playoffs. They had arrived at win or bust territory.
Wales launched wave after wave of attack at the Ireland rearguard in the late stages, with the Boys in Green happy to wind the clock down and give away possession just to preserve their narrow lead.
Long balls were punted into the box, but to little avail as centre-back behemoths Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clark cleared everything. Without their talisman, Wales were forced to resort to hopeless and aimless football.
Before the defeat, Coleman called the current Wales squad a 'golden generation', telling the Daily Telegraph: "I fought against it when they were labelled the 'golden bunch' before we qualified for the Euros but now they've earned it. This is a golden era"
Without Bale, there was no golden era performance for Wales. Now, they will watch the World Cup from home. One of the world's biggest stars will not get to play on the world's biggest stage.