LORENZO AMORUSO'S cult status at Ibrox is beyond question. The Italian centre-half spent the prime years of his career at Rangers, winning three league titles, a trio of Scottish Cups and a hat-trick of League Cups during a seven-year spell in Govan.

But it all could have been very different. Amoruso left the club in 2003 for Blackburn - "I knew the club wouldn’t be able to offer me a new contract because of the financial problems" - and the Italian says it was a heartbreaking moment in his career.

However, the former Fiorentina defender admitted that he came within a whisker of leaving Ibrox in 2001 after his relationship with his manager, Dick Advocaat, resulted in the defender trying to force through a move to leave Rangers. The relationship between the captain the Dutch coach was fractious from the very beginning, due to Advocaat's strict approach when it came to discipline.

"It was really hard at the start when the new manager came in," Amoruso told the Rangers website. "He wanted some really strict discipline and that was good to begin with, but after a year or two the players got a bit fed-up about it as we were treated like kids.

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"He was using the stick all the time and some can react well to that, others can’t. He was never ready to compromise his attitude, and one day I went to his office to sort the problems between me and him.

"He told me he didn’t like the way I had been playing or the way I had been talking and that he should change the captaincy.

"It was a personal attack, and I wasn’t happy. I said to him, 'If you think I’m the scapegoat then do it, no problem. But if you think I’m the main problem, leave me out of the team'.

"He never did that and that’s why I think it was a personal attack on me. He wasn’t happy with the way I was talking to the players and the way I was trying to get him to talk to the whole team."

Eventually, Advocaat called Amoruso's bluff and stripped him of the captaincy. Barry Ferguson, then 22, was given the armband but the Italian felt that it was the wrong decision - and pushed the defender towards the exit door at Ibrox.

"No disrespect to Barry Ferguson but he got the captaincy after me and he was only 22," Amoruso explained. "He was a good young player but I think it was too big for him at the time.

"Eventually, he got much better and was a really good captain of the club. But at the time, with all the problems we had, it was really difficult for him and we didn’t do any better that season.

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"It hurt me a lot and my first instinct was to stop playing for Rangers. I got on to my agent and told him, 'Get me out of here, I can’t work with this man'.

"That wasn’t the case though. I had talks with Sunderland and West Ham, but there was no agreement between me and them or the two clubs.

"Eventually I stayed but I didn’t want to stay. Not because of Rangers, but because of Advocaat."

The centre-half would be rewarded for his loyalty. By December 2001, the Dutchman resigned from his role and was shortly replaced by Alex McLeish. Amoruso insists that changing the man in the dugout gave everyone at the club a lift.

"At the start of the new season [2001/02], I signed a new contract," he said. "Performances were OK but Celtic were going really, really well.

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"We did really well in Europe, but in November, after a few bad results, I got a call from the club to say that Alex McLeish was the new manager.

"Advocaat became the director of football, but I saw it as an elaborate way to sack him. I was in Italy as I was suspended but after only a few days I got a phone call from Alex McLeish.

"I had a really good relationship with him and we ended that season with two trophies and beat Celtic again after going a year without doing that.

"All the workers at Rangers, the physios, the ladies in the kitchen and the groundsmen, all got a lift when Advocaat took a step away.

"The way he was acting and the way he was talking to everyone was really disappointing. The dressing room changed completely. Alex is a man who will give you something, but he always wants something back. That is the way he started with us and the results showed that in his first year and a half."