Pablo Zabaleta says Pep Guardiola has assured him of place in Man City squad
Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta says new manager Pep Guardiola has assured him of his place in the squad for next season, ending speculation about a possible move away from the Etihad.
Zabaleta's agent had said in June that the Argentine full-back's future was still undecided, with the player himself having stated in April that he was considering his options after struggling for playing time.
But he said after City's 3-2 friendly loss to Arsenal that he held talks with Guardiola when returning for preseason training and has been assured he has a role to play.
"I've been told by the manager to be part of the squad for this season so I'm more than pleased about this because City was always my priority," Zabaleta told reporters. "But I know I have only one year left on my contract and that probably created a lot of speculation about my future.
"But I didn't decide anything before I came back for preseason to meet the manager and heard from him what my situation was. So I'm so happy to be a part of Man City for this season."
Zabaleta had been linked with a move to Serie A but said he hasn't spent much time focusing on all the transfer rumours.
"That all came from the media. A lot of speculation, I don't know how many times I've been away," he said. "It was incredible, every day it was a new club. But I've always been away from that because I knew from the first day what was my decision."
City have a shortage of defenders at the moment with captain Vincent Kompany out injured, and Aleksandar Kolarov and midfielder Fernando having to deputise at centre-back against Arsenal.
And Zabaleta is also just returning to fitness after undergoing ankle surgery that ruled him out of the Copa America.
"That was my first game in three months," he said. "I had surgery during the summer. My ankle is getting better every day, but obviously today was my first game. So I'm very pleased to be back and just working on my fitness level. What I need now is just game time to get back to my best form and I'm just working hard to be 100 percent fit."
It was only City's third preseason game, and Zabaleta acknowledged that the team is still getting adjusted to their new manager just a week ahead of their Premier League opener against Sunderland.
"Since Pep came to the club we've been working so hard under him. We know his style of play is completely different to what we have done in the past. So we have to just focus on this and playing in games and trying hard to play in the way he wants," he said.
"Obviously always it takes time to adapt to a new style of play, but everyone is so confident and I think every day we are getting better and better. So hopefully for next week, for the start of the season, we can be 100 percent."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.