Birthday boy Pablo Zabaleta – who turns 36 today – embodied himself as the heart and soul of the Club during his unforgettable spell at the Etihad between 2008 and 2017.
The Argentine arrived at City from Espanyol on August 31, 2008, just 24 hours before our transformative takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group.
And he subsequently became one of the iconic heartbeats of the City squad, proving instrumental in our incredible success story that saw City secure a clutch of silverware.
But as the former Argentine left back reveals, when he first arrived at the Etihad back in 2008, he never expected his stay in Manchester would prove to be such a lengthy affair.
“I never thought I would be there for so long,” Zaba admitted.
“I didn't know if I was going to be able to adapt but I wanted a different experience.
“I found a club with a history within England and an important city.”
What an experience it subsequently proved to be
Ove the course of nine unforgettable seasons, the Argentine chalked up 333, scoring 12 goals and winning two Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups and a Community Shield.
Although Zaba admits all the silverware City won during his time at the Club were crucially important, he acknowledged that two trophies will remain etched in his memory forever:
“There were two that marked an era at the club. The FA Cup that we won in 2011 because it was the first title after many years and it was also special because we beat Manchester United in the semi-final,” Zaba recalls.
“We were beginning to be an increasingly competitive team and we were already beating the important clubs. We faced each other and for them it was no longer easy to win.
“And then, obviously for all that it means, the first Premier League title in 2012 with that famous goal by Sergio Agüero in the last minute. It was an unforgettable moment.
“You look at it and you keep getting goosebumps, I keep getting nervous every time I see that sequence, it's tremendous.
“Those two marked a moment for the club, City began to take on a certain relevance and importance.”
One other game holds special emotional significance too. Zaba’s City farewell when he bade farewell to the fans against West Brom in May 2017.
A full house at the Etihad afforded Pablo a rapturous reception after full time in honour of his remarkable contribution to the Club – and looking back, he says it’s a moment he will never forget.
“My greatest satisfaction was the day of my farewell that we played at home against West Bromwich,” Zaba added.
“The game ended, and people were still there, they gave me a shirt, the card to be a member for life, they are those little gestures that meant a lot to me.
“At that moment all my time at the club was summed up.”
Having retired from the game in the summer, Zaba admits he is enjoying watching the way Pep Guardiola’s team are going about their business this term.
And looking further ahead to the remainder of the campaign, the Argentine also proffered his opinion on our Champions League prospects.
“They are playing well, and they are winning the games. We are seeing the City that we all want to see,” Pablo asserted.
“The Champions League is very complicated, and you need to have 100% players and play the perfect game.
“You play against rivals who do not forgive, there is no possibility that you will do things wrong because if you do not stay out.
“The club at the sporting level has the players to be able to aspire to be a finalist.”
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