Saturday, 30 April 2011

I'll win the Cup for my dad, says Manchester City star Pablo Zabaleta

Pablo Zabaleta and girlfriend Christel Castano Pablo Zabaleta and girlfriend Christel Castano
Manchester City's FA Cup semi-final win over United had the blue half of Manchester beaming. But is also raised a weak smile 7,000 miles away in a hospital bed in Buenos Aires – and to Blues hero Pablo Zabaleta, that meant more than actually reaching the final.

The man who was celebrating inside, even though his body was devastated by a terrible car crash, was Zabaleta’s dad Jorge.

Now the whole-hearted Argentina defender wants to take a winners’ medal with him when he flies back to his homeland after the end of this season, to show to his recuperating dad.

Zabaleta dashed with his girlfriend Christel Castano to his father’s bedside in March after hearing the 57-year-old was clinging to life after serious head, neck and chest injuries when his car left the road and ran into a ditch.


Zabaleta senior had to be cut free from the wreckage by firefighters and when Pablo arrived in his homeland, his father was in a coma.

City gave him compassionate leave to remain in Buenos Aires as long as he needed.

After a three-week vigil at his bedside, Jorge began to improve and was moved from the intensive care unit.

City placed no pressure on Zabaleta to return even though they lost right-backs Jerome Boateng and Micah Richards to injury.

But with vital games coming up, Zabaleta had a hard decision to make and with his father still unable to speak, he was unable to ask his advice.

So the player asked himself what he thought his father would want him to do – and that was to return and play his heart out for the Blues.

“I am sure he will think I have to be here,” said an emotional Zabaleta, who was one of the heroes of the semi-final at Wembley with a typically lion-hearted display.

“Sometimes I want to be with my family there – it is a difficult time, but my career is very important as well.

“I am sure he would say to me, if he could, that I should come back to Manchester and carry on with my job. That’s why I am here.

“I went back to Argentina to support my family, my brothers, but when he started to get better I decided to come back to be with the team.

“It was a time when nothing was going to change, and I spoke to the doctor. I told him I had to go back, and was leaving my father in good  hands.

“It was a difficult decision, but this is my career and we are in a great moment, so I wanted to be here for the final and to be with the team in this part of the season.”


Zabaleta has become hugely popular among City fans for his commitment and professional attitude, and he was overwhelmed by the messages of support he received when news broke about his father’s accident

“I have to say thank you to the City fans because many of them followed me on Twitter and left some great Tweets of support to me and my family,” he said.

“They have been asking how my father is doing, so I have to thank them for that.”

Jorge had recovered enough to watch the semi-final on TV, and the sight of his son celebrating with his teammates was a huge fillip.

“My brother told me when we played the semi-final my dad was in bed and watching the game on TV,” said Pablo. “When we won he was very happy and had a smile on his face. Maybe that will make his recovery much better.”

It is to be hoped that Jorge was looking the other way when Pablo was on the end of a wild challenge from Paul Scholes which saw the United midfielder red-carded. Zabaleta revealed that the gash and livid bruise left by the challenge almost ruled him out of Monday’s clash with Blackburn.

But he says there are no hard feelings towards Scholes, saying: “He is a great player. Sometimes in a semi-final or in games like that anyone can lose their head.

“I don’t know him as a person but he looks very quiet, and as a player I have a lot of respect for him.

“I had some problems in the week before Blackburn but I made a good recovery and was able to play without a problem.”

Jorge will not be able to fly in for the final because he is now spending two months of rehabilitation in a neurological centre.

Zabaleta was speaking at the launch of the new Manchester Tennis and Football Centre, part of the Sportcity complex.

“I like tennis it’s a great sport and sometimes when we have a day off I go with Roque Santa Cruz to play – he is better than me but I enjoy it,” he said.

THE new centre, based at the old regional tennis centre, is a multisports facility for east Manchester residents, as part of a joint venture by City in the Community, Manchester Sport and Leisure Trust and the city council.


John Guidetti set for Manchester City exit

John Guidetti John Guidetti
Teenage striker John Guidetti has turned down a new Manchester City contract offer and is set to leave in the summer.

The 19-year-old Swede, who has scored 16 goals in 18 games for the reserves, will be a free agent.

He made one appearance for the Blues this seasoon against West Brom in the Carling Cup.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Roberto Mancini committed to Manchester City

Roberto Mancini Roberto Mancini
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has dismissed speculation linking him with a move back to Italy.

The Blues boss has been linked with a move back home to take charge of Juventus, the team he has supported as a boy.

Regarding the growing rumours, Mancini said: "It is normal. Every two or three months every player can change squad, every manager can change squad."

Asked if would choose to stay at City, he responded: "Yes, yes. Absolutely."

In his first full season with City, Mancini is in sight of great success on two fronts.

They are on course for a place in the Champions League for the first time with a home match against struggling West Ham to come on Sunday.

Not only that, but City also face Stoke in the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 14 with a chance to end a 35-year wait for a major trophy.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Shay Given still hopes to win medals with Manchester City

Shay Given Shay Given
Shay Given is refusing to give up on his dream of winning medals with Manchester City.

The Irish goalkeeper has spent this season on the sidelines, initially by the form of Joe Hart and then by shoulder surgery.

And he was thwarted in a bid to leave the Blues during the January transfer window as manager Roberto Mancini wanted to retain him as top-class cover for Hart.

Given looks sure to request a move away from City in the summer, but he has pointedly avoided questions about his future.

But he has said that he joined City because he bought into the idea that the club was heading for the big time – and still hopes to play some part in that.

Given is close to a return to full training after surgery on the tendons in his right shoulder, and hopes to be on the bench, at least, for the FA Cup final on May 14.

It was with a vision of playing in such games that Given ended a 12-year association with Newcastle to join City for £7m in the winter of 2009.

Hart was initially shunted out of the team, and then out on loan, by the arrival of Given, but those roles were reversed when Hart, after a successful season at Birmingham, returned to claim the gloves.

Given clearly holds no ill will for his young usurper, helping to forge his bright career, but Hart’s development has cast the 35-year-old’s future into doubt, with Liverpool and Leicester said to be among clubs interested in taking him in the summer.

But Given is still hoping he can partake of the fruits of City’s advancement, just when they seem to be growing out of his reach.

“It was important for me to be part of something big here,” he told BBC Radio Manchester.

“I don’t know what the future holds and whether I will be here or not.


“I would love to be part of it but time will tell.

“I don’t regret coming here. You get a gut feeling and I said when I joined this club I felt like a kid again.

“It was a new club and new surroundings, and maybe you do go a bit stale being at the same club for 12 years.

“It’s not ideal at the minute because I’m not playing but things do change very quickly in football and if my chance comes I have to be ready to take it.

“You look around our changing room and we have some of the best players in the world, and I feel very privileged to be part of that.

“It was a huge decision to come here but it felt right at the time because I was joining Manchester City, who had huge ambitions and I was promised there would be investment in the team.

“The owners have stuck by what they said and brought huge players to the club.

“That was the reason I left Newcastle because I felt like I was joining a club that had a huge chance of doing fantastic things, challenging at the top of the league and challenging for silverware.

“No disrespect to the people at Newcastle, but they were trying to cut back, sell some of their best players and get others in on frees. I felt after 12 years it was the right time for me to have a new challenge.”

At the start of this season, it appeared to be a close call between the experience and shot-stopping ability of Given, and the youthful athleticism of Hart.

In the end Mancini plumped for Hart, and Given has been restricted to three Europa League and one Carling Cup appearance.


He was criticised last season, usually unfairly, for not commanding his area enough, and it was seen that Hart’s extra couple of inches in height – he is 6ft 3in to Given’s 6ft 1in – was a key factor.

Given refutes the notion that his height is an issue, even in an era when tall goalkeepers are the vogue for the biggest clubs.

“People bring that issue up in the press sometimes,” he said. “It doesn’t wind me up personally, but I have met Peter Shilton, Pat Jennings and Neville Southall, and I am as big if not bigger than all of those guys.

“I also met Bob Wilson down at Arsenal a few weeks ago and he is a very similar size – and they have all gone down as greats in goalkeeping terms. If I’m in company like that I’m not too bothered.

“Things have changed a little bit with Edwin Van der Sar and Petr Cech, who are both big guys. But I have never felt size had hindered me because I have great power in my legs and a good spring that gets me around the goals as good as anyone.”

Given has remained popular with City fans, for his consistency when he was first choice, but also for his professionalism.

And after Given revealed that he snubbed a move to United when he was 16, he is sure to become even better liked!

He was spotted by several clubs while playing in the prestigious Northern Ireland Milk Cup youth tournament – but opted to join Celtic.

“I was very much a Celtic fan at the time,” he said. “I had the chance to go across to other clubs in England, including Old Trafford. But Liam Brady was manager at Celtic at the time and Packie Bonner, who was also from Donegal, was the goalkeeper.

“I just felt that leaving home at 16 these guys would help me settle in and would know what it’s like to be away from home.”

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Edin Dzeko targets cup glory with Manchester City

Rejuvenated Edin Dzeko wants to cement his place in City history by bagging a goal in next month’s FA Cup final.

The Blues striker finally broke his league duck with the winner at Blackburn on Monday, and immediately targeted a regular place in the starting line-up and more goals in the remaining six games of the season.

Dzeko admitted he reached the low point of his short career at City when he was left watching the FA Cup semi-final win over United from the bench.

With Carlos Tevez injured, the man who many feel has been bought to replace the Argentina star next season did not even get a kick against the Reds as Mario Balotelli started as a lone striker.

He let manager Roberto Mancini know how unhappy he was at being left out, but then seized his chance just three minutes after coming on at Ewood Park and with City struggling to make the breakthrough.

In the space of nine days he had gone from his lowest point to the highlight of his three months with the Blues.

He afterwards admitted that being named as sub against United had been upsetting.

He also hinted that, though his four goals in the FA Cup and Europa League have almost been discounted by his critics, the late equaliser at Notts County has proved to be a big moment in the Blues’ cup run.

“Of course it was difficult last week, everyone wants to play in a semi-final like that, but maybe I will get my chance in the final,” he said.

“I felt the first goal I got against Notts County was also big for the team and so was Monday night.

“I haven’t scored much but hopefully I’ve got important goals.

“I want to try to get regular starts now. In the last six games the important thing is that the team gets the points they need and also wins the final.

“Then next season maybe it will be a big chance for me to play more and score more goals.”

Dzeko has had to put up with all kinds of question marks against his ability since his move to City but when asked if he had ever doubted himself, the ‘Bosnian Diamond’ fixes you with his eyes and is adamant.

“No, never. Never have I doubted myself because I know what I am capable of,” he said.

“I just need to work hard and I know everything will come back for me.

“I started slowly when I was in the Bundesliga so this is nothing new for me. The new season will be the time for me.”

Dzeko’s winner at Blackburn set the Blues up nicely, taking them four points clear of Spurs in the chase for fourth place and even placing them hot on the heels of flagging, third-placed Arsenal.

Spurs travel to in-form Chelsea on Saturday and Arsenal face leaders United on Sunday, while City take on struggling West Ham at home.

If all three games go to form, City would be seven points clear of Tottenham with four games to play and just two points behind the Gunners with a game in hand.

So the significance of his goal on Monday was not lost on Dzeko.

“Spurs lost points at the weekend, and Arsenal did too,” he said.

“Now we have a home game and we’ll see if we can take advantage.”

If Dzeko has had some stick from certain quarters of the media, the fans have continued to chant his name, and he acknowledged their support at Ewood Park by clapping.

And he said that faith has been important in keeping his spirits up.

“I have to say thank you to them too,” he added.

“I hear them chanting my name – it was an amazing feeling and that goal was for them.

“It’s been tough at times over the last three months but I hope this is a new beginning for me.

“These things happen in football – sometimes you score every game, sometimes not. But it’s great that I got an important goal for the team.”