I FIRST interviewed Pablo Zabaleta at his tiny flat in the Manchester suburb of Didsbury years ago. A lot has happened since then. The Argentine has now made over 300 appearances for the club which he joined just before Sheikh Mansoor’s takeover in 2008.
He also scored the forgotten goal of English football. 2012. Final game of the season. Edin Dzeko equalises against QPR in the 93rd minute. Then, “Aguerooooo” seals the title with the famous last minute strike. Pablo opened the scoring that day and told me that at half-time, with the score 1-0, he thought he’d be the “hero of the day, the hero of the city!”
He is fascinating on those final few moments of the 2012 season, revealing how the injury-time news that QPR were safe changed everything in City’s favour and helped Aguero to claim his place in history.
We cover a lot in this conversation, starting in 2005 at the Under-20 World Cup, which Argentina won. Zabaleta was captain and a little Argentinean kid called Leo Messi had joined up with the squad the previous month. We play Pablo this video of him scoring in the semi-final against Brazil and reflect on the achievements of that golden generation of players, including Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero and Messi.
Pablo also speaks emotionally about Dani Jarque, his former teammate at Espanyol, Dani Jarque, who died of heart failure in 2009. Andres Iniesta paid tribute to Jarque in the 2010 World Cup final after scoring the winning goal, when he took off his Spain top to reveal the message: “Dani Jarque: Siempre Con Nosotros” (Dani Jarque: Always With Us).
Pablo talks about how the role of right-back has changed under current manager Pep Guardiola and his motivation to remain “part of the club even if they can spend £50-60m on a right-back”.