McLeish wants Zarate stay
Alex McLeish hopes Birmingham are not nurturing Mauro Zarate for one of their top-flight rivals.
Last Updated: 30/03/08 4:49pm
Birmingham manager Alex McLeish hopes he is not nurturing two-goal hero Mauro Zarate for one of their Premier League rivals.
McLeish does not want other clubs to reap the benefits of the work they are putting in to improve the all-round game of the Argentinian striker.
Zarate joined on loan from Qatar side Al-Sadd in January, and has impressed over recent weeks culminating in his match-winning brace in the 3-1 victory over Manchester City at St Andrews on Saturday to boost Birmingham's hopes of top-flight survival.
But McLeish fears he faces a battle to hold on to Zarate, who Al-Sadd paid £10million for last June, especially if the Blues fail to beat the drop.
"I just hope that we are not nurturing Mauro for someone else to get the benefit of him," said McLeish.
"Somebody else could reap the rewards in a year's time if we can't do a deal to keep Zarate here - but the plan is to try to hold on to him.
"Yes, he's finding his feet and I know the purists say you shouldn't be making a dribbler and ball player defend - but it is the way of the modern game.
"You see the great players like (Carlos) Tevez and (Cristiano) Ronaldo working so hard when Manchester United don't have the ball and it is a side of the game Mauro is learning, but he is undoubtedly a talent.
"I think he has got something nobody else can give us. He can beat a man, he's exciting and I want someone in my team who can make a difference. He's getting to realise where he can lose the ball and where he can't lose it.
"He took a step forward from the Portsmouth game at Reading last week, and was excellent against Manchester City. He is a fantastic young prospect."
McLeish admitted he remains unclear about precisely what it would take to retain the striker.
He added: "I don't know the ins and outs of the owners of Zarate or his agents. I've got him on loan. Anything else depends on the outcome of the season.
"Hopefully we can retain Premier League status and can talk to Zarate about staying on for another season."