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Power shift

Pablo Zabaleta perfectly sums up how the Manchester rivalry has changed in one quote

The Argentine full-back has played his final home game for Man City and his assessment of the club's progression is hard to deny

Pablo Zabaleta is an honourary Mancunian for life.

The Argentine right-back signed for Man City the day before Sheikh Mansour officially invested his billions.

After nine seasons, two league titles, an FA Cups and a pair of League Cups, there’s no doubt Zabaleta can be considered a modern legend.

Pablo Zabaleta helped mould Man City into a Premier League powerhouse

Zabaleta has won six trophies with Man City

There were emotional scenes at the end of City’s win over West Brom on Tuesday night as Zabaleta said goodbye to the fans after playing his last home game for the club he has given everything to.

Team-mates gave their vice-captain a guard of honour, tossed him in the air and applauded along with thousands of fans who stayed behind to honour the 32-year-old.

Messages from former team-mates, including maverick Italian Mario Balotelli, were shown on the big screen and the club presented Zabaleta with a lifetime season ticket.

A suitable send off for a veteran of 333 games for the club.

An underappreciated hero

Getty Images
An underappreciated hero

Speaking after the game, the man himself gave an analysis of how the club’s role in Manchester and English football has changed during his tenure.

“When I first came to Manchester, I felt like when I was in Barcelona at Espanyol,” he said.

“We were not the main club in the city.

“We can’t say the same thing now.”

Pablo Zabaleta is set to play his last Manchester City game at the Etihad on Tuesday

A blue for life

It’s certainly true that in 2008 Man United were very much the dominant club in the city, and English football as a whole.

However, since 2012, United have only finished above their ‘noisy neightbours’ once in what will soon be five seasons.

City fans are indebted to Zabaleta for his role in this seismic power shift.

Wherever he ends up next, that club will have inherited a uniquely passionate player; a pleasant rarity in the modern game.