• Premier League

Zabaleta: Balotelli exit has helped City strikers

ESPN staff
March 6, 2013
Carlos Tevez made his return from a six-month absence in March 2012 © PA Photos

Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta has described last season's stand-off between Carlos Tevez and Roberto Mancini as a minor incident that turned into a "crazy" situation.

Tevez did not play for City for six months and was suspended and fined by the club after refusing to warm up in the Champions League game at Bayern Munich in September 2011.

He spent much of the season in Argentina before eventually returning to help City win the title - but only after Mancini accused him of refusing to play and claimed his City career was finished.

Tevez lost £9.6 million in fines and bonuses during his absence period, but City right-back Zabaleta, a close friend of Tevez who was caught in the middle of the dispute between the striker and his manager, is confident there will not be a repeat.

"It has been so difficult for Carlos, for Mancini, for the club," he said. "From something very small, it grew so big. It's done I think, hopefully, what happened won't happen again.

"After it happened, everything went crazy and it was so difficult for everyone. Everybody makes mistakes, the positive thing is Carlos came back again and the commitment for the club and team has been 100%, so that is well done by him."

Zabaleta, who was sat next to Tevez on the bench in Munich, was called to give evidence before the internal inquiry City held.

He explained: "I gave my answer to the club, was simple, the truth. It's the best way always when something happens. That's all. Carlos, the way he is playing now and showing his commitment to the club is the most important thing."

Tevez scored City's winner at Aston Villa on Monday but it was just his 12th goal of the campaign, whereas in his two previous full seasons at the Etihad Stadium he managed 29 and 24 goals respectively.

But Zabaleta said his Argentine counterpart is as good a player as he was before Munich and the unexpected interruption to his career.

He added: "Yes, I think he definitely is - 100%. He got a fantastic goal against Chelsea and I think he's been great all season."

And he believes it is easier for Tevez, Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero to all get regular first-team football now Mario Balotelli has moved to AC Milan.

He explained: "When Mario was here we had four top strikers and it was difficult for them to play every game. But now we have Edin, Sergio, Carlos and they're all doing well."

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