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Opinion

Villarreal glass ceiling could still see Unai Emery become Newcastle United manager

4 weeks ago
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The Unai Emery move from Villarreal to Newcastle United has not exactly gone smoothly.

These past 24 hours have been a very public mess, with now any move shrouded in doubt, despite yesterday morning it appearing all but a certainty.

The media are split and as ever you don’t know who to trust.

However, as well as those claiming the move definitely won’t happen now, others are insisting that Newcastle United are still proceeding and hoping to convince Unai Emery to sign a three year contract, when / if a formal approach is made to Villarreal, including the readiness to pay the £5.1m buyout clause in Emery’s contract {which has less than 20 months still to run) at the Spanish club.

One of the comments I have seen thrown about, is ‘Why would Unai Emery want to move from Villarreal to Newcastle United…?’, the reasoning being a stable La Liga club who are playing in the Champions League and who won the Europa League only just over five months ago, compared to a car crash of a club that has been trashed over the course of 14+ years of Mike Ashley neglect and lack of investment – a club which is currently second bottom of the Premier League and without a win almost three months into the season.

However, that is a very simplistic view and wrong in my opinion, the question surely should be, why is Unai Emery not already packing his bags before rushing to the airport for a flight to Newcastle Upon Tyne?

It isn’t a case of delusions of grandeur where Newcastle United are concerned, we know the club has been left in a serious mess, after all we (Newcastle fans) have been telling anybody (not many!) who would listen, just what a disgrace Ashley’s running of the club had been, for over 13 years of the 14 and a half years he was in control.

Anyway, the Villarreal glass ceiling could still see Unai Emery become Newcastle United manager.

Let me explain…

Unai Emery speaking to The Guardian less than 18 months ago – 15 May 2020:

“The desire and energy is there. I’m watching football, learning. And if there’s a good project in England, if someone wants me and is prepared to get behind me, I’m available…

“In England that identification with your team brings the game alive. It’s deeper there, like a church.

“I was born in San Sebastián and my team is Real Sociedad. That feeling is in my heart and that’s what you find in England. It’s marvellous, the loveliest thing there is.”

No offer did come from England and instead on 23 July 2020, Unai Emery agreed a three year deal to become Villarreal boss.

A fairytale then followed.

Taking over from the departed Javier Calleja who had led Villarreal to fifth in 2019/20, Unai Emery finished a respectable seventh in La Liga.

However, in May 2021, Unai EMery led Villarreal to their first ever European final.

Ironically, a 2–1 win on aggregate over his former club Arsenal in the semi-finals took them to that first ever final and on 26 May, Unai Emery completed the miracle. Villarreal won the Europa League final against Manchester United on penalties.

That gave him his fourth Europa League triumph after an amazing three when with Sevilla, with the four it meant a record in the competition for the Spanish manager.

The miracle is real in football terms, as Villarreal only has a population of around 50,000.

TV cash is minimal in Spanish football compared to the English Premier League, to beat clubs with the resources of Arsenal and Man Utd is simply mad. It takes a canny manager to do that…

The crowds are unsurprisingly small, indeed they make Burnley look like they get decent crowds.

This season Villarreal are averaging gates of 11,962 at home in La Liga and as for last night’s brilliant Champions League win that takes them top of their group above Atalanta and Man Utd, there were 14,890 in attendance. Not bad when it equates to almost a third of the population BUT not exactly something that you can build a footballing superpower from.

When it comes to money for players, the past ten years shows half the seasons producing a profit in the transfer market and taking the figures overall the last decade (stats via Transfermarkt) to actually a small profit of around £1m based on 10 years worth of purchases and sales.

The President of the La Liga club talked about convincing Unai Emery to stick around to carry on the ‘Villarreal project’ but surely that project has already been completed? A town with a 50,000 population having their club win the Europa League, a club that struggles to get more than eleven thousand or so to regularly turn up. They are having this adventure in the Champions League this season but realistically it is going to only last a very limited time, last night their hero was former Watford midfielder 33 year old Etienne Capoue, who scored and made a goal.

As Newcastle fans, we know all too well that our club is not competitive at this moment in time BUT with new ambitious owners, instant capacity 52,000+ crowds just because some hope has arrived, the riches that Premier League TV deals help to supply, never mind the investment the new owners (and possibly related parties…) are set to pump into St James Park.

Guillem Balague has claimed that family and friends have convinced Unai Emery to stay somewhere that he is loved and respected BUT that didn’t prevent him leaving Sevilla for PSG and then Arsenal.

Unai Emery has unfinished business in England and whilst fair play to him if he wants to enjoy the quiet more relaxed life in a town with less residents than Newcastle United have fans in their stadium every home match (now Ashley has gone!).

However, that glass ceiling absolutely exists and the miracle of a Europa League win for Villarreal is exactly that.

Unai Emery will, sooner or later, move on again from success at a smaller Spanish club (as was the case at Sevilla) to see if he can cut it again on a bigger stage.

The situation and starting point is anything but ideal at St James Park BUT the potential is massive, if / when the formal offer goes in from Newcastle United, will Unai Emery really turn it down…?

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