Zabaleta the City lover is looking for a gift from 'God'

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Pablo Zabaleta is desperate to be part of Diego Maradona's plans for Argentina. The Manchester City defender was part of his country's gold medal-winning efforts at the Olympic Games in Beijing last year but has won only two senior caps.

He has not even been contacted by Maradona even though the legendary World Cup-winner spent time with Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano during a whistle-stop tour of the North-west last year. However, Zabaleta has been one of City's most consistent performers since his £6.75m move from Espanyol last summer, leaving the 24-year-old hopeful of catching Maradona's eye at some point in the near future.

"It is good for Argentina and the people that a great hero like Maradona is in charge," Zabaleta said. "We call him Dios – God. He won the World Cup as a player and we hope he will win it now as coach. I would love to be in his plans but he has not called me yet."

Zabaleta has had little trouble settling at City with plenty of Spanish speakers around to make the process easier. Indeed, he claims to prefer Manchester to Barcelona, a statement which might come as a surprise given the glamorous location he left behind.

"I want to play for Manchester City for a long time," he said. "I enjoy life here, I don't even mind the rain!

"It's different here from Barcelona, but I like it. It's a great opportunity for me as a person and I am sure City can grow bigger and the players here can change the history of the club."