Barça does not wish to be caught by any decisions that would suddenly change their plans. For this reason, and owing to the possibility of an irresistible offer for Dani Alves and also for the Club, FC Barcelona is obliged to have their backs covered. Barça is quite clear that the market does not offer another player like Alves, but there are right backs of a certain level who, if the time comes, could reinforce the squad with quality. According to Mundo Deportivo‘s sources, Pablo Zabaleta is one of the names included on the coaches’ agenda list.
At the Camp Nou, the progression of Martín Montoya during this season offers good prospects for the 21 year old to be integrated into the first team. The presence of Alves, a footballer who except for his latest injury is capable of playing practically every game, relegates the reserve right back into a merely nominal role.
But the hypothetical departure of Alves would change that pattern. If it were to happen, the idea would be to bring in a player with experience in major competitions who could share time on the pitch with Montoya. This profile is filled to perfection by Zabaleta, a player of character who spend a good part of his career at San Lorenzo and at Espanyol serving as a midfielder, but who already during his time as a blanquiazul adapted to the role of wing back capable of playing on either side.
This versatility and the competitive nature that distinguishes him had already attracted the attention of Barça in his days as an Espanyol player, but eventually he went to Manchester City in 2008, when they were beginning to fund the team that are champions today. In fact, a goal by Zabaleta in the final game of the Premier League season helped City earn the title after 44 years.
His importance for City has been irregular. Lately, the injury to Micah Richards gave him the opportunity to finish the Premier League as a starter. In February there was talk that Zabaleta might consider a change of scenery, with Valencia the likely destination. Earlier, Roma’s interest in November of 2011 prompted a contract renewal until 2015.
In addition to the qualities previously mentioned, there are other factors that work in favor for Zabaleta and for Barça’s interest, always subject to a departure by Alves. At 27 years of age, and with Zabaleta’s experience in the Spanish League, where he played from 2005 to 2008, he is a professional who knows what to expect from the football side of things. The same goes for the city of Barcelona itself, where he met his partner.
Another not incosiderable detail is that Zabaleta has a great relationship with dressing room heavyweights like Leo Messi and Javier Mascherano. Zabaleta debuted in Argentina’s senior team the same day as Leo, against Hungary in 2005, and three years later both players along with ‘El Jefecito’ were Olympic champions.
If this were not enough, City’s plan this summer is to sell players amounting to 240 million euros. For Zabaleta, who was bought from Espanyol for 8 million, will he listen to offers . . . including one from Barça?
Source: Mundo Deportivo; Photo credit: ANDREW YATES/AFP/GettyImages