Zabaleta, who arrived at the Etihad Stadium in 2008 from Barcelona-based Espanyol, will face international team mate Messi tonight as Barcelona take on Manchester City in the Champions League.
The two are friends after their time in the Catalan capital together, and with all the money that City have, there have been persistent rumours that one day, they will make a blockbuster swoop for the man coined as the best player in the world, and Zabaleta told Spanish press that he thinks he could persuade Messi to join him in Manchester.
“I can convince him to join City. I'd love to take him out and about in Manchester,” he told Marca. “Maybe we'd head to Didsbury and eat fish and chips. I think he'd like that.”
“Yes, I've spoken to Messi about City. Just after I'd signed, I took advantage of some time off they'd given us and went back to Barcelona. I stayed at his house and everybody was talking about the club's new owners and all the money. Leo has asked me what it's like in Manchester,” added the right back.
With the big game against Gerardo Martino's side on the horizon, Zabaleta noted how Messi can hurt the opposition at any time, and that the four-time Ballon d'Or winner hasn't let his immense success change him as a person.
“When you play against Leo, even if you have a great game, you only have to take your eye off the ball once for him to score,” said Zabaleta.
“Messi hasn't changed a bit; success hasn't gone to his head. He's won everything, but he's the same guy he was before he hit the big time. We lived in the same city when I was at Espanyol and we were mates and hung out for three years. We were young, free and single - they were good times,” added Zabaleta, who will have to put his friendship with Messi to one side tonight in order to bag City a win.
image: © Carlos RM