Aussie keeper's long road to South Africa
World Cup 2010: Nelspruit
Adam Federici was preparing for Reading's game at Cardiff in early April when the text messages started arriving. Had he really been approached by Italy manager Marcelo Lippi? Was he about to sensationally switch allegiance from Australia to the world champions?
The 25-year-old goalkeeper has an Italian father and, having not made a senior appearance for the Socceroos, was eligible to play for the Azzurri.
Federici, coming to the end of his breakthrough season, quickly played down talk of a switch, but then nothing has been particularly straightforward in his journey from Jervis Bay - a small seaside town 90 minutes from Sydney - to the World Cup in South Africa.
His eight-year quest to make it as a professional has taken him to Italy, an Olympic Games, a sprinkling of non-league clubs in the south of England, the bottom of a well and a team-mate's sofa.
He was highly rated as a junior in Australia but that appeared to count for little as the 17-year-old failed to convince a number of English clubs, including Bolton, to take him on.
"Many of them said I had the ability but not the experience," said Federici, who spent an unhappy year at Sardinian side Torres Calcio, for whom Gianfranco Zola once played.
Federici has not played a full international for Australia
The option of returning home to work in his father's accountancy business must have been tempting but Federici had the support of his family and a dogged determination fuelled by rejection.
His perseverance was rewarded when Steve Coppell took the plunge in September 2005, signing the keeper for Reading on a non-contract basis.
"I had spent three years knocking on doors and sleeping on floors in the hope of earning a contract," added Federici.
Not that the non-contract deal resulted in instant riches - or even a comfortable bed. Federici was so short of money that he lived at Ibrahim Sonko's flat, sleeping on the sofa.
Federici was loaned out to non-league sides Maidenhead United, Northwood and Carshalton Athletic in order to gain the experience that had deterred so many professional clubs from taking a chance.
But Federici kept plugging away and gradually adjusted to the physical demands of non-league football. His hard work paid off when the Royals gave him a one-year professional deal in the summer of 2006, allowing him to move into a place of his own.
"It was great to finally unpack my suitcase, move into a place and feel settled," he said.
With US international Marcus Hahnemann established as the first choice at the Madjeski Stadium, opportunities were at a premium. But Federici did play in the FA Cup during the 2006/7 season, putting in an eye-catching man-of-the-match performance as his team held Manchester United to a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.
His progress did not go unnoticed in his homeland. He was invited to train with the Socceroos ahead of their friendly against Denmark in London in January 2007. Six months later, he was called into the squad ahead of the match against Uruguay.
A stand-out performer for Australian at the Beijing Olympics, Federici also claimed the number one spot at Reading following Hahnemann's transfer to Wolves last summer.
And such was his form during the latter stages of the season that Tottenham and Liverpool were reportedly interested in his services.
"To have your name thrown about with those sort of clubs shows that I am moving in the right direction," Federici told me. "Who would have thought that four or five years ago."
Mark Schwarzer played every minute of Australia's three matches at the World Cup in South Africa - but Federici's experiences have strengthened his resolve to become the Socceroos number one.
"I spent a lot of years on the road travelling around and to be in South Africa made it feel as though all the hard work had paid off," Federici told me. "I am looking forward to one day actually playing in a World Cup. I got a taster here in South Africa and I want to show what I can do on a big stage but I have a lot of years in front of me."
Australia failed to repeat their exploits of four years ago in Germany by progressing from the group stage. But they won a thrilling final game against Serbia in Nelspruit on Wednesday, coming within two goals of snatching second place in Group D.
Federici now heads back to England and is looking forward to trying to win promotion with the Royals next season - but not before taking a brief holiday.
"We have been in camp for several weeks with a very structured routine," he said. "I'm not sure that I will watch all that much of the rest of the World Cup. It is time to have a week off and completely zone out."