BBC Sport pundit Garth Crooks has drooled over West Ham hero Pablo Zabaleta and claimed he’s “still got it”.
The right-back, 33, was part of a valiant Hammers defensive rearguard in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Leicester City after they were forced to play 52 minutes with 10 men following Mark Noble’s dismissal.
“He may be knocking into his mid-30s but Zabaleta has lost none of his enthusiasm nor any of his bite. Just ask Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi,” Crooks told the BBC Sport site as he named Zabaleta in his team of the week.
“The former Argentina international won a perfectly timed 50-50 tackle with the Nigerian midfielder, who was left on the floor.
“Zabaleta was part of an heroic performance by West Ham’s defence, in a team who played much of the game with 10 men. He’s an old boy who has still got it.”
Ready for the knackers yard? Not yet, he isn’t. Premier League title winner Zabaleta was expected to be a fringe player this season following the summer signing of Ryan Fredericks after Hammers won a Premier League-wide race to sign him on a free from Fulham. The Argentine was on the bench for three of the first four matches this season, but has demonstrated his evergreen qualities by starting seven of the 10 league matches, including the last six in a row. Zabaleta has none of Fredericks’ blistering pace, but he is an expert in his position who knows all the tricks of the trade. He had to dig deep alongside most of his teammates on Saturday, but, not for the first time, the 58-times Argentina international delivered the goods when it really mattered. Reliable, consistent, committed and outstandingly professional, Zabaleta is the real deal, and has been throughout his decade in the Premier League. West Ham are lucky to have him.