A four-time Europa League winner and the current Aston Villa manager, Unai Emery Etxegoien entered into coaching when he suffered a career-ending injury at Lorca Deportivo. Two decades since his first post at a club he hung up his boots, he’s now a well-respected coach with a knack for cup competitions. We’ll delve deep into his managerial career starting from the first steps in Spanish’s third division.
Lorca Deportivo (December 21, 2004 – June 30, 2006)
Miguel Munoz Trophy 2005-06
Apart from the 1995/96 La Liga season with Real Sociedad, Emery’s playing career saw him feature as a midfield in Spanish lower divisions. And, in 2004, a knee injury meant he was forced to retire at 32.
His strong relationship with the club’s president meant he was instantly offered the coaching job. He returned the trust by achieving promotion to the Segunda Division, which is a great success for a club that dissolved only ten years after its formation.
In his first experience of Copa del Rey, Emery ousted La Liga side Malaga to reach the Round of 16. They were knocked out of the competition by Atletico Madrid in the two-legged tie.
Emery continued to impress as he became the first Segunda Division coach to win the Miguel Munoz Trophy in the next season. In their maiden campaign at second-tier football, Lorca only missed out on a historic La Liga promotion by five points.
After Emery left for Almeria, Lorca immediately got relegated from Segunda Division finishing 21st out of 22 teams.
Almeira (July 1, 2006 – June 30, 2008)
84 games: 39 wins, 20 draws, 25 defeats
Miguel Munoz Trophy 2006-07
Emery also won the Miguel Munoz Trophy in 2006-07 as he helped the club to a first-ever La Liga promotion. The Andalusian club managed to keep the sought-after coach for another season as Emery embarked on his first La Liga experience.
His La Liga debut saw Almeria clinch a 3-0 away win at Deportivo La Coruna, who reached Champions League semi-final three years ago. Almeria finished eighth in their first La Liga season thanks to Emery’s tactical acumen.
Not once were they in the relegation zone from the start of the season to the final matchday. They finished the season only two places behind the final European spot.
This campaign saw his credentials reach new heights as Emery became a coveted coach in Spanish’s top division. In the end, it was Valencia who succeeded in bringing him to the club ahead of the 2008-09 season
Valencia (July 1, 2008 – June 30, 2012)
220 games: 107 wins, 58 draws, 55 defeats
As they won La Liga twice under Rafa Benitez, Valencia is a bigger step for Emery, although he finished above them with Almeria in 2007/08. His first season resulted in the club qualifying for European competition with qualification to UEFA Europa League.
Due to financial issues, he had to work with a thin squad at Los Che, but they finished sixth in the standings. Emery’s first game was against Real Madrid in the Supercopa. Although they narrowly won the home leg thanks to goals from Juan Mata, David Villa and Vicente, Los Blancos lifted the trophy with an aggregate score of 6-5.
In Europe, they were knocked out in UEFA Cup’s Round of 32 by Dynamo Kyiv, losing on away goals. They didn’t lose any of their games in the European campaign.
There was another defeat in a two-legged tie after winning the first match as Valencia was knocked out by Sevilla in the quarter-finals of Copa del Rey.
2009-10 was far better than the first season at Valencia for Emery. The club returned to the Champions League as they finished behind Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Madrid and Pep Guardiola’s treble-winning Barcelona side.
In the first season under the Europa League name, they lost to fellow La Liga side Atletico Madrid. Los Colchoneros managed to lift that trophy at the end of the season. Coming at the end of his contract, Emery extended for one more year to stay for more than a couple of years at a club for the first time.
While he had to deal with the departures of the Davids – Villa to Barcelona and Silva to Manchester City – Valencia were top of the table after six games with five wins. Despite three defeats in the next four, there was no change from the previous season’s top three in the La Ligue standings.
For all Emery’s reputation as a cup manager, his team’s league form was once again the most impressive. Villareal and Schalke knocked them out of the cup competitions in the Round of 16 stages.
In his fourth and last season at Mestalla, Emery continued the trend of finishing beneath the two giants of the game. In Europe, they couldn’t get out of their Champions League group, but subsequently reached Europa League semi-finals, where they lost to Atletico Madrid.
They also reached the last four in Copa del Rey, but lost to Barcelona 3-1 on aggregate. When many expected him for bigger roles, Emery opted for something no one expected in 2012.
To date, the four years and 220 games at Valencia is the longest Emery stayed at one club.
Spartak Moscow (July 1, 2012 – November 25, 2012)
26 games: 12 wins, 3 draws, 11 defeats
Emery somehow ended up in Russia after finishing the past three seasons third-best in Spain. He started well with a perfect record in the first three league games. With a win against Fenerbahce, they also reached Champions League group stage.
It was all going well with the club’s owner Leonid Fedun during these initial weeks. Their first defeat was a shocking one, however. Emery’s Spartak lost 5-0 to fierce rivals Zenit.
They also conceded the same number of goals in Emery’s final game as he was relieved of his duty after a 5-1 defeat to derby rivals Dynamo Moscow.
At the time of his sacking, Spartak were lowly eighth in the league table after 17 rounds. They were knocked out in the second round of the cup by FK Rostov and lost four of the first five Champions League group stage games, including both home and away by Barcelona.
With that, Emery had to deal with his first dismissal in the harsh world of football management.
Sevilla (January 14, 2013 – June 30, 2016)
205 games: 107 wins, 43 draws, 55 defeats
3 Europa League (2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16), European Coach of the Year (2013-14)
His reputation in Spain remained intact despite the unsuccessful spell in his first experience outside his home country both as a player and coach. He replaced Michel at Sevilla for the second half of the 2013-14 season.
It was a defeat against Emery’s ex-team Valencia that brought him back to La Liga. Sevilla were unbeaten in his first four games in all competitions. They finished ninth in the league and reached Copa del Rey semi-finals.
2013-14 saw Emery win his first title – the first of four in Europa League. They were fortunate to even take part in the competition as Malaga and Rayo Vallecano refused access by UEFA and RFEF for different reasons.
In the group stage, Emery’s Sevilla finished top with an unbeaten run, although three of the games ended 1-1. They had to tackle fellow Spanish sides Real Betis and Valencia to reach the Turin final.
The final against Benfica ended goalless after 120 minutes. Beto saved two penalties in the shootout for Sevilla’s third UEFA Cup triumph, a first in the Europa League era. In the season Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid stunned the two giants, Sevilla improved from the previous term with a fifth-placed finish.
They were fifth once again in the 2014-15 season, but they also retained their Europa League success. In the run to the final, Emery’s Sevilla won seven of their eight knockout stage games, including a 5-0 success over Fiorentina in the semi-finals.
Against Ukraine’s Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk final, Carlos Bacca’s brace helped Sevilla to a 3-2 win in Warsaw, Poland. Sevilla prematurely extended Emery’s contract as interest intensified from Premier League clubs.
Sevilla got a chance to win their third successive Europa League after they were knocked out of the Champions League group stage. Although they started the final against Liverpool as an underdog, they completed the unthinkable trilogy with an emphatic 3-1 victory.
Coke was the two-goal star this time around as Emery’s Sevilla outplayed Jurgen Klopp’s Premier League outfit. But the coach ended his tie with the club at the end of the season.
PSG (July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2018)
114 games: 87 wins, 15 draws, 12 defeats
Ligue 1 (2017-18), 2 Coupe de France (2016-17, 2017-18), 2 Coupe de la Ligue (2016-17, 2017-18), 2 Trophee des Champions (2016, 2017), UNFP Manager of the Year (2017-18)
At PSG, Emery’s points-per-game ratio is the highest in his career. In the end, the 2016-17 Ligue 1 is the only domestic trophy he missed out on in two years at the club.
Replacing Laurent Blanc at the helm, Emery won his first trophy in the first game in the form of France’s Super Cup – Trophee des Champions. He added two titles, but they were not the most coveted crowns.
In Ligue 1, Monaco, blessed with an 18-year-old talented attacker by the name of Kylian Mbappe, leapfrogged the capital city’s club. And, in the Champions League, PSG collapsed in Barcelona despite a four-goal lead from first leg.
The 6-1 defeat at Camp Nou was a big dent in Emery’s managerial CV. In 2017-18, they were knocked out by the other Spanish powerhouse, Real Madrid. But PSG won a domestic quadruple.
They were unbeaten at home until the final game against Rennes, the team they knocked out from both cup competitions. In total, Emery won seven titles in two seasons with QSI-backed PSG continuing their dominance in French football.
Persuaded by his European success in the past three seasons, PSG were desperate to have that translated to Champions League. But that failed to materialise with early exits from Europe’s premier competitions.
And, with one year left on his contract, Emery himself cut the cooperation at the end of the 2017-18 season.
Arsenal (July 1, 2018 – November 29, 2019)
78 games: 43 wins, 15 draws, 20 defeats
Yet again, Emery decided to have no break as he returned to management in the new season with Arsenal. With comparison unavoidable with the club’s long-serving and era-defining coach Arsene Wenger, Emery struggled in his time in London.
He was sacked before the end of his two-year contract in the wake of a home defeat to Eintract Frankfurt stretching Arsenal’s winless run to seven games. He finished below Tottenham Hotspur and outside Champions League berth in his first season, but there was a chance to amend matters with the Europa League final staged in Baku, Azerbaijan.
But Chelsea won the all-English affair with ease for a final scoreline of 4-1. Emery was introduced to Premier League football with defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea. After that, his Arsenal side went 15 league games unbeaten, including winning the first seven.
In the end, the fans weren’t really into his playing style and the number of draws. When the club finally decided to part ways with the Spaniard, Arsenal were sitting eighth with only two league wins from the last 11.
At the start of the season, Emery was backed from the board with the club’s most expensive signing Nicolas Pepe. But they were having a poor season even by the standard of Emery’s first year at Emirates Stadium.
For many, his way of starting every interview with a “Good Ebening” was the highlight of Emery’s Arsenal tenure. Those who didn’t pay close attention to his past achievements were quick to write him off, but they were in for a surprise when the man from Hondarribia returned to England to turn the tide at Aston Villa.
Villareal (July 23, 2020 – October 25, 2022)
129 games: 66 wins, 32 draws, 31 defeats
Europa League (2020-21)
For the first time since he entered the managerial world, Emery took a short break after getting fired from Arsenal. But it didn’t even last a whole year. In the new season, Villareal brought him back to Spanish football as he replaced Javier Calleja.
It was as if he’d never been away. After 15 games in La Liga, Villareal lost only to FC Barcelona. That run set a club record for the most unbeaten run of games in all competitions (18).
And, at the end of the season, Villareal reached its first-ever European final. As fate has it, they beat Emery’s ex-team Arsenal in the semi-finals. A few weeks later, they completed the journey with a penalty shootout win against Manchester United in Gdansk, Poland.
A record fourth Europa League title kickstarted another battle by Premier League clubs to return the super tactician to English football. But Emery resisted the attractive offers to stay at Villareal for the 2021-22 season.
Once again, Villareal finished seventh in the league, but Emery had his best run in the Champions League. They knocked out previous winners Juventus and Bayern Munich to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 2006.
The defeat to Liverpool ended their fairytale story, but this spectacular run further cemented Emery’s repertoire in European football. Somehow, Villareal kept him at the helm for the 2022/23 season.
But it wasn’t going to last. Aston Villa activated the release clause estimated at €6 million as they ended their cooperation with Steven Gerrard.
Aston Villa (November 1, 2022 – Current)
58 games: 35 wins, 9 draws, 14 defeats [updated on January 17]
With Villa a single point off of the relegation zone, the first task was to secure the league status for the 2023-24 season. But it didn’t take long for Emery to end any relegation fears at the club.
Since his appointment, only four clubs collected more points than Aston Villa during the 2022-23 season. And, once again, he broke another record with his team scoring in 20 consecutive league games – the most for a new coach in Premier League history.
He finished the first season in ninth place, which is the club’s highest since the 2010-11 campaign. Villa also returned to European football as they qualified for Europa Conference League. Despite not completing a full season, he was on the shortlist for the Premier League Manager of the Season award.
The new season, which marked his sixteenth successive European football campaign, saw Aston Villa add Monchi to its football operations. Emery and Monchi orchestrated Sevilla’s trilogy of Europa League wins.
With big investments in Pau Torres and Moussa Diaby, Villa strengthened its side ahead of Emery’s first full season. Although they lost 5-1 to Newcastle United on the opening weekend, Villa continued the progress under Emery to push for a Champions League berth.
As Sir Alex Ferguson predicted despite the heavy defeat, Villa quickly responded with seven wins from the next nine league games. Their highest point came with wins against Manchester City and Arsenal in the space of three days.
The Arsenal victory meant Villa won 15 successive league games at home for the first time in their 149-year history. They also started their European campaign with a defeat, but finished top of the group to book a place in the Round of 16.
In the process, Emery recorded his 100th win in UEFA competitions. At the end of 2023, for the second time in his career, the Spaniard was named Premier League Manager of the Month.
Uni Emery stats
* updated on January 17
Uni Emery trophies won
|UEFA Europa League
|Coupe de France
|Coupe de la Ligue
|Trophee des Champions
Uni Emery individual awards won
|European Coach of the Season
|UNFP Manager of the Year
|Miguel Munoz Trophy
|Globe Soccer Awards Coach Career Award
|La Liga Manager of the Month
|Premier League Manager of the Month