Current West Ham United and former Argentina international Pablo ZABALETA has already started working towards becoming a coach while hinting at possibly retiring in the Middle East.
Now 33 years old, veteran Pablo ZABALETA has achieved a lot in his career. An Olympic gold medalist with Argentina as well as being an U20 World Cup winner, he reached a World Cup final with his country in 2014 and is a two time English Premier League winner with Manchester City. However, he is near the end of his career and it looks like he could retire outside of a top European league. Speaking with Arab News, here’s what ZABALETA had to say:
“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. 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.
“I know the Middle East clubs have three or four spots for foreign players and they always try to bring attackers who have more influence on a game. But I’ve been playing in the top leagues and believe I can give experience, versatility and quality.”
ZABALETA has stated that he spoke to Manuel LANZINI, who at one point also played in the Middle East.
“I spoke to Manu about his experience and he said it was great. But the difference was he was only 21, then wanted to go to Europe and test himself further. He said the lifestyle was fantastic, you train late in the evenings because of the conditions. After England, this is what I’m looking for.
“You see Ahmed MUSA was playing for Leicester, did well in the World Cup and had attractive offers from Europe, but went to Saudi Arabia with Al-Nassr. It was a surprise, but this is what can happen now. I have read Saudi Arabia are thinking about 2030, changing many things to make it better. Football and sport is important to this.”
The former Manchester City man is already working on his coaching badges and is not opposed to one day possibly coaching the current Premier League winners.
“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.
“I’m always watching football, talking about it. Whether it’s Spain, Italy, China or the Middle East. My phone is full of football apps.”