Andrea Pirlo has claimed he could have been a "legend" at Inter had events during the early part of his career turned out differently.
The Italy veteran joined fierce rivals AC Milan in June 2001, three years after breaking into the Nerazzurri first-team squad, and went on to become a pivotal player for the Rossoneri over the following decade, lifting two Serie A titles and two Champions League trophies prior to his move to Juventus in 2011.
However, Pirlo, who turns 34 this month, believes he could have gone down in the annals of history in the blue and black of Inter, had coach Marcello Lippi not been dismissed from his post in October 2000.
"When I see him, I am instantly reminded that, if he stayed on as Inter coach, I'd probably have become a legend there," he said in his autobiography I think, therefore I play.
Pirlo was subsequently loaned out to former club Brescia after failing to impress replacement coach Marco Tardelli, and the Italy star admits his lack of opportunities that season remains a source of intense frustration for him.
"I won the European U21 Championship [with Tardelli as coach]. Maybe he did not recognise me at Inter, the fact is that I never played. I suffered and wanted to scream so many times," Pirlo continued.
"But, being a civilised person, I always stopped myself at the right time. Together with him and the team's decline, I did not want to stay longer and they prevented an unconditional love affair [between me and the club]. I wanted to run, and I did, thanks to a phone call with my agent [Tullio] Tinti."
Pirlo was part of Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning side, and he revealed the importance of team ethic behind the Azzurri's triumph in Germany - irrespective, he claims, of the best efforst of sections of the press to unsettle them.
"In Germany we became world champions thanks to our team ethic, but every now and then, we were branded as s***s," he added.
"Prior to the second-round match against Australia - with that non-existent penalty - Totti told us: "Don't talk too much with journalists, they are spies. You cannot even keep a secret, they always know what is going on in training.""