Unai Emery has left Villarreal FC in mid-season to join Aston Villa. On Tuesday, he explained his motives – without talking about his new club.
From seventh in the Spanish league and a European Cup contender to a relegation-threatened 15th in England? Unai Emery is taking this surprising step. No wonder there was a certain need for explanation.
However, he hardly shed any light on the matter at the specially arranged press conference in Villarreal. After thanking pretty much everyone at the club, he explained that it was “a professional and personal decision”. He had indeed found “an important part of my family” and “a part of my heart” at Villarreal. But the profession is in me. I felt I had to choose this option,” the former Arsenal coach said. At the end of his opening statement, his voice failed him.
With club boss Roig, gratitude prevails
He was comforted by, of all people, the club boss Fernando Roig sitting next to him, who had already made it abundantly clear before Emery’s words that they would not part on bad terms. “We are here to talk about the unilateral termination of Unai’s contract. He has fulfilled the contract he had and I thank him for the work he has done with his team in all this time,” Roig said. “He made us Europa League winners and made sure we played an extraordinary role in the Champions League.” The 75-year-old also spoke of being “quite a blow” and “a bit of a disappointment”, but there was truly no way he could be blamed for that.
After all, there was more than enough to celebrate under Emery. The “yellow submarine” kicked FC Bayern out of the top flight in 2021/22 and only failed to reach the semi-finals against Liverpool FC. The current season has also been very promising. Villarreal have already won Group C of the Conference League with two matchdays to go and have won all four of their games. Fourth place in La Liga is just four points away after the recent 2-1 win over Almeria.
Villarreal get million-dollar pay-off – and Emery a hefty salary
So why the move to England? “You have to try to put emotions aside,” said Emery, who had been fighting back tears moments earlier. “You have to be cold and calculating and stick to the contracts you sign.”
Emery ultimately used his unilateral exit clause from his contract. Villarreal can console themselves with a transfer fee of six million euros after all. Financially, Emery should improve; he is said to earn around seven million euros a year at Aston Villa. You don’t have to be a clairvoyant to know that the club from the small town of 50,000 inhabitants near Valencia could not keep up.
The 50-year-old, who has also coached PSG and Spartak Moscow, is convinced he has made the right decision by following in the not-so-large footsteps of previous coach Steven Gerrard – the Liverpool legend was even booed by his own fans in the end. “I have the maturity and experience to make decisions with determination and respect,” said Emery, who has a score to settle with the Premier League. At Arsenal, he had succeeded Arsene Wenger in 2018 and was sacked after just a year and a half.
Emery, who is not allowed to start at Birmingham until November 1 due to the lack of a work permit, did not say a word about Aston Villa. “I only want to talk about Villarreal. Tomorrow a new stage starts and then I will talk about it. “