Pablo Zabaleta, the anti-Robinho who ‘got’ Manchester City, departs a hero | Paul Wilson

The feisty Argentinian full-back made his City debut on the same day as the flaky Brazilian forward and has played every game since as if it was a privilege

One of the endearing things about Manchester City, even in their present incarnation as global-scale wealth squanderers, is that every few years a player comes along whose bond with the supporters transcends the normal relationship between well-rewarded professionals and the paying audience.

Pablo Zabaleta, who is leaving the club after nine years, is the latest in a series of terrace heroes that includes Colin Bell, Georgi Kinkladze, Uwe Rösler and perhaps even Shaun Goater. Not all of those players made the same impact, and maybe the expression ‘club legend’ fits some better than others, but what they all had in common was an instant and easy affinity with the crowd. Like the supporters, they “got” City, understood what the club were all about and performed as if being asked to run out at Maine Road or the Etihad was an honour and a privilege rather than a weekly duty.

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