The 28-year-old silenced his critics by scoring a brilliant double in his country's 4-0 demolition of Republic of Ireland on Wednesday night, but revealed how being omitted by national team coach Vicente del Bosque for a friendly encounter in February became a turning point.
"Del Bosque phoned me before dropping me for the Venezuela friendly and I fully understood [his reasons]," he told The Sun.
"I had lost some of my love for being at work.
"Being picked for Spain had become a habit. Now it is a prize again. I had stopped setting an example to younger players, which is something I was taught to do at Atletico Madrid.
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"I was pleased with my personal performance and very happy to have scored but I’m mainly happy because the team won," he beamed.
"We're confident now because we feel as strong as ever, because we played well. We have to keep playing like this.
"We knew scoring early would set us up well. We needed the comfort that brought us. That got rid of the doubts and opened up the game."
Spain's final group game, against Croatia, kicks off at 20:45 CET on Monday.