Roberto Mancini has admitted his Manchester City team stood a better chance of winning the Premier League with Carlos Tevez available.
City are currently three points behind rivals Manchester United ahead of the crucial derby clash between the two teams at the Etihad Stadium on Monday.
The title race appeared to be over just three games ago but United's slip-ups against Wigan and Everton have coincided with the return of Tevez to help inspire City to three straight victories.
The 28-year-old Argentine forward has scored four goals in those three games, forging a strong partnership with his compatriot Sergio Aguero.
And that has led to many speculating on what might have been had the player not had a high-profile dispute with Mancini that saw him absent from the team for six months, and it is a view the Italian manager has some sympathy with.
"It's clear that with him we would have had a better chance," Mancini told France Football. "But we were top of the league until March, which means the other strikers did well."
The 47-year-old coach had suggested Tevez would not play for the club again after refusing to warm-up in a UEFA Champions League group game against Bayern Munich in September.
But Mancini insists the decision to readmit the player to the team was entirely his and not forced upon him from above after moves to Paris St Germain and AC Milan broke down in January.
He added: "Yes, yes we say hello with Carlos. I always had a good rapport with him. I didn't have a problem to forgive him.
"The board have never imposed anything on me. To play Tevez again was a logical choice because he didn't leave in the January transfer window.
"He's a player of great quality, one of the best strikers in the world, and we thought he could help us. I have had a good attitude with him like with everyone else. It's not us who wanted him to go to Argentina in November.
"I was very sorry with that situation. I found it strange. I don't know why all this happened."