Manchester City legend Pablo Zabaleta is winding down a successful career as a top-level footballer and is considering a move to the UAE, Saudi Arabia or Qatar in the summer.
Were he to move to the Middle East, he’d be following a similar path to that of Pep Guardiola, who had a spell at Al-Ahli in Qatar before calling it a day as a footballer.
Speaking to Arab News, Zaba, who is currently playing for West Ham, admitted that a move to the Middle East is on his mind, with America another option, but a move to the mega-bucks Chinese Super League doesn’t interest him.
“My heart tells me I would like to play forever, but I will be 34 in January and I need to listen to my body at that time,” the former City right-back told Arab News.
“At the end I will know what I want to do and where to go, but I would like one or two more years to carry on playing. At 34 I think it might be the right time to try something different, have a new experience.
“If I carry on playing in Europe, Italy is one of those leagues I haven’t played, but I have always been thinking about the Middle East. I first went to the UAE for the Under-20 World Cup in 2003 and have seen how much the region has changed.
“I’ve been to Saudi Arabia and Qatar with the national team and you see the fantastic progress, football standards improving and passion of fans.
“The League is not as long as in Europe, but there’s still the chance to play for trophies, to play big games competitively like in the Asian Champions League.
“I can’t see myself going to China; the Middle East and America are more attractive.”
And also like Pep Guardiola, Zabaleta is looking to a future in coaching, having already acquired his UEFA B license. The obvious question was asked: Would Zabaleta like to manage his former club City one day? You can probably guess his answer…
“Why not? I spent nine years at Man City, it was like a home and my last meeting with (chairman) Khaldoon Al-Mubarak, he said the door will be open for me to come back to Man City in some role, so we will see. It would be special.
“I know Pep did this and went to Qatar after playing for Barcelona and then moved into coaching. It would be nice to do that.
“I have done my B license, next is the A license. In football you never know, but I’d like to keep involved, whether as a manager or off the field. I want to prepare myself by having those badges.”
Manchester City manager Pablo Zabaleta? It’d be some years off yet, but don’t rule it out!