West Ham defender Pablo Zabaleta has hinted about a potential move away from the London Stadium to the Middle East this summer.
The 33-year-old's contract is set to expire at the end of this season, however he remains to be a big part of Manuel Pellegrini's squad. He's made seven Premier League appearances so far this campaign and, after a difficult start, has helped the Hammers resurrect their season having climbed up from the foot of the table to 13th.
Zabaleta signed with West Ham in the summer of 2017 on a two year deal having been released by Manchester City, however doubts over the Argentine's future at the club have already begun to creep in with the full-back set to turn 34 in January.
Speaking in an interview with Arab News, the defender opened up about how he wants to experience new challenges heading into the closing stages of his playing career, and even entertained the thought of moving to the middle east. He said: “My heart tells me I would like to play forever, but I will be 34 in January and I need to listen to my body at that time.
“At the end I will know what I want to do and where to go, but I would like one or two more years to carry on playing. At 34 I think it might be the right time to try something different, have a new experience.
“I have always been thinking about the Middle East. I first went to the UAE for the Under-20 World Cup in 2003 and have seen how much the region has changed. I’ve been to Saudi Arabia and Qatar with the national team and you see the fantastic progress, football standards improving and passion of fans."
It's an area in world football which is becoming more and more popular, with the likes of Barcelona legend Xavi as well as former Swansea City defender Chico Flores opting to swap the glitz and glamour of European football for the upcoming Qatar Stars League.
Coincidently, Zabaleta's current Hammers' teammate Manuel Lanzini was signed from United Arab Emirates' side Al Jazira in 2015 - having spent one season with the club - with Zabaleta admitting he has spoken to his teammate about his experience playing on the other side of the world.
He added: “I spoke to Manu about his experience and he said it was great. But the difference was he was only 21, then wanted to go to Europe and test himself further. He said the lifestyle was fantastic, you train late in the evenings because of the conditions. After England, this is what I’m looking for.”
There'll be many opportunities for Zabaleta to continue his playing career beyond this season, however he'll no doubt be fully focused on the task currently facing his West Ham side in trying to push them up the Premier League table before he thinks about where he'll be playing next season.