Gabriel Heinze says he regrets his acrimonious departure from Manchester United, claiming that his "impulsive" nature propelled him into a battle of wills with Alex Ferguson over his determination to sign for Liverpool.
The Marseille defender, who was regularly described as a "warrior" by Ferguson during his three years at Old Trafford, left United for Real Madrid for £8m in August 2007 after engaging in an unsuccessful public battle with Ferguson over his desire to join Liverpool.
Such was Heinze's determination to force a move to United's century-old rivals, the Argentine enlisted the services of Liverpool's solicitors, Hill Dickinson, in an effort to convince a Premier League tribunal that United had no right to block his move.
But with Heinze set to face United for the first time tonight since his departure, when Ferguson's team tackle Marseille at Stade Velodrome, the 32-year-old admits the dying days of his Old Trafford career now haunt him.
"I don't have many regrets from my career as a footballer, but that episode with Ferguson (has) to be one of them," Heinze said.
"I'm impulsive and strong-willed and this has got me into trouble at times, which was the case at the time when I left United. On reflection, it is easy to see that Ferguson was a major influence on my career, in a positive way."
Central to Heinze's determination to move to Liverpool was his insistence that an agreement between his agent and United ensured he would be allowed to leave should a rival club trigger a £6.8m release clause.
This was followed by a letter from the club to the agent confirming this conversation, but United insisted that the agreement prevented a move to a Premier League rival.
With Liverpool having their £6.8m offer for Heinze rejected by United, the then-Crystal Palace chief executive, Phil Alexander, told a Premier League tribunal that he had received a proposal from Heinze's representatives whereby Palace would sign the player from United before allowing him to leave Selhurst Park for Liverpool.
The tribunal, chaired by Premier League chairman Dave Richards and Leeds solicitor Peter McCormick, rejected Heinze's claims, however, before United ended the stand-off by selling the player to Madrid.
But Heinze concedes his attempts to force the move were ill-judged.
"I regret it a lot, especially the last month (at United), but I am a strong personality and so is Alex Ferguson," said Heinze.
"It was my decision to leave. I took the decision, but I don't want to think back to what happened four years ago.
"Maybe I will tell the whole story one day. I knew the risks about going to Liverpool from Manchester, but that was my decision.
"I was popular with the United fans, but I don't think what happened has tarnished their view of me.
"Maybe the last month didn't go as planned, but I don't think fans will think like that -- they will remember the three years I had there."
"Since I left, I have met Ferguson only once, in Qatar, for a Brazil v Argentina game last November and I was really happy to see him. I cannot wait for the chance to go back on to the pitch at Old Trafford because this is the most special club of all, and I include Real Madrid in this list."
For his part, Ferguson said: "There were no issues with Gaby. When he left, it wasn't down to him, He had a bad agent in my opinion, who engineered the situation and tried to trick David Gill.
"We proved that and stopped the agent's attempt to get him to Liverpool.
Gaby moved on to Real Madrid, but he was a warrior and for three years, he did really well for us." (© Daily Telegraph, London)