The former City idol, now taking his coaching badges following his retirement from playing, was renowned for his courage and warrior-like spirit during nine fantastic seasons with the Club.
A huge admirer of the Brazilian midfielder, he believes Ferna continues to improve with age and is hugely important to City’s quest for silverware this season.
“Fernandinho is like a fine wine,” said Zabaleta. “He gets better as he gets older.
“He’s always been really physically strong, but when he’s on the field he brings that leadership and experience to the team.
“His positioning is always good; he can tackle and his distribution of the ball is always excellent.
“OK, maybe he has lost a yard of pace, which is quite normal for a player who is 35, but playing in midfield or at centre-back, you don’t really need that kind of pace.
“He can protect the back four as well as anyone in the Premier League, especially when he plays alongside Rodrigo and he is still a very important player for City.
“He’s also a really nice guy and, for me, one of the greatest signings City made during my time at the Etihad.”
Now in his eighth season with City, Ferna has already clocked up 320 appearances for the Club since joining from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013.
Named as the Club captain during the summer following David Silva’s departure, Zaba believes that the service he’s given City over the years make him pound-for-pound an incredible signing.
“It’s funny,” he said. “Back in 2013, £34million for a player who was relatively unknown outside Ukraine probably raised a few eyebrows at the time.
“But for what he’s given and for all the trophies the Club has won during his time makes the fee look like excellent business.
“He is always positive and is such an important influence on the pitch and in the dressing room.
“He is not afraid of anything and always plays with total commitment.
“In a 50/50 challenge he will never give anything but 100% and I love players like this.
“In the Premier League, you need players like that if you want to be successful but he has so much to his game and can even score great goals from outside the box.
“He is also happy to do what I call the 'dirty work' – winning the ball back, breaking up play or starting moves from the back and he is someone I loved to have as a team-mate.”
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