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Pablo's snub a puzzle to Hughes

Pablo Zabaleta 0809

Pablo Zabaleta 0809

Mark Hughes has admitted that he is mystified as to why versatile Argentine import Pablo Zabaleta, one of the Blues' top performers this season, has not had a tap on the shoulder from the Hand of God.

While most of manager Hughes' fit City slickers have been called away on World Cup qualifying duty this week, Zaby's international claims have been ignored by controversial Argentina coach Diego Maradona.

Maradona, who scored his notorious "Hand of God" goal to knock England out of the 1986 World Cup, made a whistle-stop tour of the north-west recently to visit Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano but left Zabaleta out in the cold.

 Hughes said: "I'm surprised, given the season that he has had. He's been outstanding ever since he's come here from Spain. He's also shown his versatility for us, something that I feel is a real asset in a player.

 "He's able to adapt to a variety of positions. So sometimes you can change formation without having to make substitutions if you have a player of Zaby's flexibility on the pitch.

 "That's a good trait to have, and Pablo is a great help in that respect. His performances levels in midfield this season have been excellent, while his performance at full back goes without saying."

  Argentina are well placed for one of the four South American berths in South Africa next summer, but Maradona is taking flak about passing over midfielder Juan Riquelme as well as raising eyebrows about blanking Zaby, the former trophy-winning Under-20 skipper who has won two caps.

  Hughes smiled: "Maradona has been about 300 yards from our training ground, so he only needed to pop in! But Pablo is still a young player and I'm sure his time will come, because he is doing fabulously well in the hardest league in the world. I think Maradona is aware of him. It's his decision. As managers we stand or fall by our decisions, and so will he."

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