Here Spanish was restricted to ‘ola’ and ‘gracias’. Pablo Zabaleta also holds a Spanish passport, speaks English and earns a living nearly 10,000 km away from home at a club owned by a very rich Arab. That he flits in and out of cities and sees little of them except stadia, practice grounds and hotels makes Zabaleta the archetypal modern-day footballer. As does his ability to play full back and central midfield.For the past three years Zabaleta's been at Manchester City. Carlos Tevez and now Sergio Aguero's presence at the club means they have a little Argentine corner at City. "We are enjoying it," he said. "Kun (Aguero's nickname) just arrived and is settling into the squad. He had a great last season, scoring many goals (for Atletico Madrid) and began very well here too. And Carlos too is training very well."
Zabaleta's arrival from Espanyol in the Spanish league in 2008 predated the club's takeover by Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour, but only just.
"I know we have been big spenders over the past few years, signing many top players to build a good squad for the present and the future.
And we've done a great job; the club's growing a lot. We won the FA Cup last season, finished third in the league and qualified for the Champions League. This time, we've started very well and I think we are one the clubs which will be in the (EPL) title race."
But asked if the other Manchester club always goes one-up on them, even on a matchday they beat Tottenham Hotspur 5-1, and Zabaleta's sidesteps the question even after starting to answer it. “I prefer talking about the national team here.”
Has he ever faced caustic references to the Falkland War or the ‘Hand of God’ goal? Zabaleta replies with a shake of the head. “It’s never been a problem for me in England. We are very close to the people there. I get a lot of respect in England, they understand that we are here to do a job,” said the 26-year-old.