Pablo Zabaleta is acutely aware of the qualities Manuel Pellegrini brings to West Ham United.
It is 17 years since the Argentinian defender and Chilean manager’s paths first crossed, 7,000 miles from London Stadium in the Flores district of Buenos Aires.
Back then, Zabaleta was a 17-year-old reserve-team player for San Lorenzo, while Pellegrini was in charge of the first team. The teenager watched, impressed, as the manager led the Blue and Red to the 2001 Primera Division Clausura title and Copa Mercosur – South America’s equivalent of the UEFA Europa League.
A few seasons later, in 2005/06, they would come face to face again, but this time on opposite sides, as Pellegrini’s Villarreal beat Zabaleta’s Espanyol twice on their way to finishing seventh in Spain’s La Liga.
The full-back moved to England with Manchester City in 2008 and, five years on, Pellegrini joined him.
As was the case at San Lorenzo more than a decade before, the manager brought immediate success, but this time Zabaleta was at the centre of it, making 35 appearances as City won the Premier League in May 2014 – clinching the title with a 2-0 win over the Club which now employs them both again.
Across the three seasons Zabaleta and Pellegrini worked together in the Warehouse City, the player made more than 100 appearances, adding two League Cup winner’s medals, and the popular Hammer is looking forward to joining forces with his fellow South American again.
He has always been a good manager and I am sure he will show that again with West Ham
“Manuel Pellegrini is a very successful manager with great football experience, not just in England but in many different leagues,” said West Ham’s No5. “When I was a teenager with the San Lorenzo club in Buenos Aires, in Argentina, I was in the second team and he was the first-team manager.
“He did well when we were at San Lorenzo. He had success there, he built a good team, won the Primera Division title and set some records.
“After he left San Lorenzo he went to River Plate and won another Primera Division title. He was always keen on youth development, too, bringing through good young players who went on to do very well.
“He went to Spain with Villarreal and did a great job, taking them to the Champions League semi-finals. I played against his teams many times when I was with Espanyol and they were always very tough opponents.
“He did well at Real Madrid and Malaga, then he came to Manchester City, where we worked together for three seasons and won the Premier League title and some other big competitions.
“He’s a very quiet person, but he is also very determined and very strong in his belief about how football should be played. He likes to play good, attractive football, and he plays to win, which the fans of all the clubs he has managed have always enjoyed.
“He has always been a good manager and I am sure he will show that again with West Ham. I welcome him to the Club and wish him good luck.”