by Josh Green

Now the dust has settled from another dramatic Manchester Derby, I would like to give a few words of tribute to City’s very own action man.

The game itself has been hijacked by the press and formulated into the sensationalistic story of unruly fans throwing C.O.M.D’s (Coins of mass destruction) onto the pitch, one of which hit first class ‘twit’ and United defender Rio Ferdinand in the face.

With this story taking the headlines, the image of the Derby has been one of Rio’s bloodied fizzog, when it should really be the picture of a heart-broken Pablo Zabaleta slumped against the post after Robin Van Persie’s late winner. You could see how much it meant to the Argentine defender; he had the same gut wrenching, sinking feeling that all City fans felt as the ball crept past Joe Hart’s outstretched arm.

Players like Zabaleta are a beacon of light during such an intense football game. He plays for his team mates, the fans, his manager and the badge. So concerned with fighting for every second ball and urging his team mates on, City’s number 5 has no time to involve himself in the classless act of winding up opposition support. Unlike Wayne Rooney, the man with a piece of second hand carpet glued to his head, Zabaleta celebrates with his own fans in times of victory, not in front of the opposition’s.

The 27 year old is in his fifth season with The Blues and is never shy to mention the fact he loves life at the Etihad. Right back, left back, defensive midfield, centre back or on the wing are all positions you can find the former Espanyol man occupying for the current Premier League champions. Versatility is a key attribute that Zabaleta possesses, however he is by no means a jack of all trades and a master of none. The feisty Argentinean plays each position with such desire and passion to win that he inevitably makes it his own. With the “never say die attitude” the City man possesses he is one of Roberto Mancini’s most valued and trusted men.

A sport riddled with diving, petulance and mercenaries makes players of Zabaleta’s ilk a breath of fresh air. His admirable attitude and work rate has seen him become a cult hero at City, with a choice of such fantastic talents as Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero, many City fans will choose the braveheart ‘Zaba’ as their favourite player. Often spotted in a local chippy or watching the City’s Elite Development Squad play, the City defender has really embraced life in Manchester and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the City faithful.

Whether it’s a crunching tackle, brave header or last ditch block,  Zabaleta seems to always contribute something heroic every time he sets foot on a football pitch. The man wouldn’t look out of place in the Spartan Army in the film ‘300’. Whilst epitomising what it means to be a warrior on the field, off it the defender is humble and articulate in post-match interviews, answering questions with dignity in his Argentine/Manc hybrid accent.

With City captain Vincent Kompany due to miss the trip to Newcastle at the weekend, I would love to see Pablo take the armband again. An adept footballer and fierce warrior, Zabaleta is someone you would really want alongside you in the trenches in times of war. As City struggle to click into gear this season, the Argentine will give it his all to help drag City kicking and screaming through to the next gears.

A warrior, a cult hero, a leader, a captain, a true man. Manchester City’s number 5, Pablo Zabaleta.

You can follow Josh on Twitter @JoshBlue92