Pablo Zabaleta: Mr. Versatile Will Remain Indispensible at Manchester City

Ieuan BeynonCorrespondent IIIJune 9, 2011

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 20:  Pablo Zabaleta of Manchester City receives treatment for a head wound during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Everton at City of Manchester Stadium on December 20, 2010 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was reported as saying at the beginning of last season that Pablo Zabaleta was his favourite player at the club.

High praise indeed from the Italian.

But on closer inspection it is easy to see why Mancini has such admiration for the Argentine.

Pablo Zabaleta is everything good about the modern-day footballer, in the sense that he is old-fashioned.

There are no dives and screaming histrionics from this particular South American.

Brought up on the mean streets of Buenos Aires, Zabaleta is one of the very best utility players in the world.

He is probably at his best when positioned at right back, but he can also play left back with equal effect.

He can also be deployed as a defensive midfielder and this was where he played when captaining Argentina’s Under-20s to World Cup success in 2005, leading the likes of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero to the title.

A move to La Liga was the next step for Zabaleta, as he signed for Espanyol from hometown club San Lorenzo.

There he helped Espanyol complete a remarkable run in the UEFA Cup where they finally lost in the final to Sevilla on penalties.

A move to Manchester came about in 2008 and he has since gone on to make over 100 appearances for the club.

It is under Mancini, though, that Zabaleta has played his most consistent football.

The Italian trusts Zabaleta in the big games, and he never lets his manager down.

A rugged fullback who loves to defend, he is strong in the air and even stronger in the tackle; Zabaleta is a defender in the truest sense of the word.

This is why he will remain so important next season.

Manchester City will have a number of big games in both the Premiership and the Champions League.

These are the games where he will make a difference. With Micah Richards on one side and Pablo on the other, City has one of the best defences in the league.

With Richards marauding forward on the one side and Zabaleta supporting on the left, it gives the team a balance that Mancini loves.

He is also a massive favourite of the fans, who love his work-rate and commitment. This was best shown in one of the final games of last season.

City were playing Stoke in their final home game of the season, and with his side winning 3-0 he took a blow to the head.

With blood pouring from his head, you could see how angry he was that he had to miss the final moments of the game.

He wears his heart on his sleeve and genuinely wants team to succeed.

And when they do, you can bet that Pablo Zabaleta will have something to do with it.