Belfast Telegraph

Pablo Zabaleta delighted with progress Manchester City have made since 2008

Pablo Zabaleta is proud of the club he is leaving behind as his time at Manchester City comes to an end.

The long-serving full-back bade an emotional farewell to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday after featuring as a second-half substitute in a comfortable 3-1 win over West Brom.

The 32-year-old, who announced last weekend he would leave the club in the summer, now has just Sunday's trip to Watford remaining in a City career that has spanned the revolutionary Abu Dhabi era.

Zabaleta joined City the day before the 2008 Sheikh Mansour takeover that transformed the club.

The Argentinian arrived at a mid-table outfit but has since helped City win two Premier League titles, three other cups and reach the semi-finals of the Champions League.

"It has been nine wonderful years," Zabaleta said. "We cannot forget where we have come from. We have to be very proud. I am so proud to see where Manchester City is today.

"It took so much work over so many years and the future is bright for this football club because the right people are here to carry it on. For me, I feel I have done enough and it is the right time to move on.

"It has been a fantastic time. I have been part of the most successful period in Manchester City's history. I am so humbled by that."

Zabaleta was honoured with a number of tributes after the game, including the presentation of a lifetime City season ticket. He seemed touched by the send-off and could not hold back the tears as he addressed the crowd.

The on-pitch ceremony was planned and the scenes poignant, but City could not be accused of allowing the sentimentality to affect their performance.

On the field, they were highly efficient in sweeping the Baggies aside to move up to third in the Premier League and tighten their grip on a Champions League position.

Pep Guardiola's men now need only a point at Watford to secure a top-four place and even a defeat would only see them drop to fifth if Arsenal both beat Everton and engineer a six-goal swing in doing so.

City's goals came from Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure, with the outstanding Sergio Aguero having a hand in all three. West Brom grabbed a late consolation through Hal Robson-Kanu but otherwise failed to make an impression.

Zabaleta said: "It was a good performance by the whole team. We needed to win to get three points.

"We know there is still one game to go until the end of the season and we want to secure that third positon to qualify (outright) for the Champions League.

"It is a moment to enjoy the last few days with the lads at the training ground and hopefully we can celebrate at the end of the season with another win."

The result saw West Brom slip to ninth, continuing a dismal run that has seen them win just one of their last 11 games. Their campaign ends away at Swansea.

Manager Tony Pulis said: "The lads have got two days off now, they need that to clear their minds. The Swansea game will be tough but we are desperate to finish on a win."

Zabaleta is unsure what the future holds for him but will consider offers to remain in England, where he and his family are settled, and would have no issue returning to City as an away player.

He said: "I would not be the first player to leave a club after so many years and then come back in a different shirt for another club.

"I think everyone understands I have enjoyed some of my best football at this football club but I will try to play a couple more years.

"I have a few offers from teams in the Premier League, some offers from abroad. I am just thinking what is the best for me and my family.

"I have been in England for so many years. I am happy and I enjoy playing in the Premier League. We will see."

Yaya Toure's future is also uncertain with the midfielder's contract expiring at the end of the season. City are understood to be hopeful of retaining the influential Ivorian but the issue is still to be resolved.

Midfielder Fernandinho said of his team-mate: "He's a top player. Of course I hope he stays. We want him in the side with us because he makes our life much easier.

"Everyone has their own life, you have to decide by yourself. But, of course, if he asks me for advice I would tell him to stay - he's a great player."

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