For many, loyalty in football is a thing of the past. Connecting with players has become a near-impossible task, such is the transient nature of their careers. Where once a player would come through the ranks at their hometown team and enjoy a lifelong association with the club, now they regularly move on without a hint of regret in search of their next signing on fee and wage increase. In turn, fans have found it increasingly difficult to emotionally attach themselves to players, preferring instead to accept the modern pitfalls as part and parcel of the game.
So when a player comes along who genuinely loves the club he plays for, the fan connection becomes fervent. Pablo Zabaleta is the classic example: A player who puts in unrivaled levels of effort on the pitch, and speaks beautifully about the club and fans off it. He’s become every City fans favorite player.
Yesterday, he signed a new four-year contract, meaning he will still be at the club when he’s 32. He’s already made 175 appearances since his move in 2008—often captaining the side in Vincent Kompany’s absence—and his attitude throughout has been exemplary.
As reported in the Daily Mail, Zabaleta is thrilled a new deal has been agreed:
I have been here for five years and it feels like home. Signing a contract extension with the club makes me feel very happy.
I feel great here, I like the Premiership, and I think Manchester City are one of the clubs looking for success in the future. It is a club that is very well-organised and when you see that everything works well you want to be here.
I think we have got a great squad, fantastic players and hopefully we can win something this year.
His performances have improved massively since his arrival, culminating in last season’s Etihad Player of the Year award for what was a flawless campaign from the right-back. His no nonsense defending was augmented by a new attacking dimension to his game, resulting in a series of outstanding performances. It must have been one of the most comprehensive wins in the history of City’s Player of the Year vote. While many other City players underperformed, Zabaleta produced his very best form.
His new deal continues the club’s policy of renewing contracts for their best players long before the existing deal runs out. Sergio Aguero and David Silva are two such examples, with Micah Richards expected to follow suit soon. Richards has been linked with a move away from the club, but in a recent interview on the Blue Moon podcast he spoke of his excitement about challenging Zabaleta for a first-team place. I firmly expect both players to remain at City for many years, continuing their battle for right-back supremacy.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity