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Opinion

Unai Emery explains why he didn’t come to Newcastle United

2 months ago
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It was turbulent times at Newcastle United when Unai Emery turned down the job at St James Park.

Newcastle deep in relegation trouble with no wins and only four points from a possible 30 in the opening 10 Premier League matches.

It would be another month and five games before Newcastle United registered their first win of the season in early December, that victory coming under Eddie Howe.

Unai Emery though has now revisited what happened back in late October / early November and why he didn’t take the NUFC job.

Unai Emery talking to The Athletic:

“The Newcastle project is an attractive project, something to build, different to Arsenal.

“With Arsenal, you first had to knock down the walls, which is hard work, then start to build again. Newcastle no, it was just about building, from the ground up. So it is different, and I liked the idea.

“The Premier League is an attractive league for all us coaches. So when Newcastle called me, I thought a lot about the opportunity to return to England, to a serious project. For me, it was a source of pride, satisfaction and I appreciated it.

“The opportunity of a club like Newcastle, what it could turn out to be, it is normal for me to listen to the offer, to consider it.

“I thought about the offer and I spoke with (Villarreal president) Fernando Roig but I also had to take into account that we were in the Champions League with Villarreal, mid-season. In the end, with a lot of respect for Villarreal, and a lot of respect for Newcastle, I decided to stay here. I am happy here and we are doing an important job.”

Unai Emery wasn’t flavour of the month on Tyneside when turning down the chance to replace Steve Bruce five months ago.

The new Newcastle United owners making one of their few real mistakes, pushing the message out in the press prematurely that Emery was set to come in, only for the Spaniard to decide to stay at Villarreal.

NUFC then having to turn to their second choice, who had also been interviewed a number of times, Eddie Howe.

A real sliding doors moment possibly for both Unai Emery and Eddie Howe, in terms of their management careers.

So did those sliding doors do Newcastle United a favour in the end…?

Well a quite remarkable Champions League campaign speaks massively in favour of Unai Emery.

After drawing 1-1 at home, minnows Villarreal went to Juventus on 16 March for the second leg of their last 16 Champions League match. It was pure Unai Emery. The home side having control of most of the match, vast majority of possession and shots, however, very few real scares for the visitors.

Then their moment came with 12 minutes to go, Villarreal winning a penalty and Moreno converting, then really rubbing it in, two additional late goals for the Spanish side against the Italian giants.

A quite brilliant night for Unai Emery as he marched into the last eight of the Champions League and who knows…this is the man who won three Europa League titles in a row with Sevilla, won numerous trophies with PSG, then possibly his greatest moment, taking such a small club as Villarreal in his first season as manager, then winning their first ever trophy. Winning the Europa League in typical Unai Emery fashion as massive underdogs, beating Arsenal in the semis and Man Utd in the final.

Now Unai Emery and Villarreal are at home to Bayern Munich in the first leg of their quarter-final on Wednesday night, what an upset that would be if getting past the German giants. However, having just beaten Juventus, anything is possible.

Since turning down Newcastle United, Unai Emery and his team have played 19 league matches, winning ten, drawing three and losing only six. However, maybe the Champions League adventure is now impacting on their league season, because after beating Juventus, Villarreal have lost to both Cadiz and Levante in their last two La Liga matches, two clubs who are in the bottom four.

Villarreal now seventh in the table but if they had beaten those two relegation candidates, they would be sixth in the table and only six points off Barcelona who are second in the La Liga table.

So did Newcastle United get the wrong man?

Eddie Howe results in Premier League with Newcastle United

Played 19 Won 7 Drawn 5 Lost 7 (Points 26)

That averages out at 1.37 points per match, despite losing the last three games, which over the course of a full 38 match Premier League season would give 52 points.

So Eddie Howe took over a squad of players that pundits had lined up to say were so poor it was a miracle that Steve Bruce won any games with them…

The new NUFC Head Coach going on to improve the team and pretty much every single individual, then producing very decent form.

Yes money was spent in January BUT it is the existing players who have been key to the turn around, such as Joelinton, Schar, Shelvey, Fraser etc, whilst the two January transfers to have the biggest impact cost a grand total of £13m, Dan Burn and Matt Targett.

So did Newcastle United win or lose when it came to recruiting Steve Bruce’s replacement?

Well, the new owners got loads of stick, even from some Newcastle fans, for how long it took to appoint someone. However, to me, their intensive process to identify the right man (men?) has been shown to have paid massive dividends. As the two people they ended up with at the top of their list, it was a case of heads you win, tails you don’t lose, when appointing either Unai Emery or Eddie Howe.

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