Aston Villa have named Unai Emery as their new manager after the Premier League club paid the Spaniard’s €6m (£5.25m) release clause at Villarreal. Villa approached Emery as they looked to make a quick appointment following the sacking of Steven Gerrard last week.
Emery will take over from 1 November after his work permit formalities are completed, meaning Villa’s caretaker manager, Aaron Danks, will remain in charge for the visit to Newcastle on Saturday. Villarreal had retained hope that Emery would stay on, as he did when he turned down Newcastle’s advances last year, but the club confirmed his departure on Monday evening. Emery’s Villarreal contract had been due to expire next summer.
The appointment of Emery by the billionaire owners, Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris, is a considerable coup and emphasises their ambition to return Villa to European competition. Emery’s pedigree in Europe and knowledge of the Premier League from his time in charge of Arsenal was attractive to the hierarchy, who accelerated talks with several candidates over the weekend.
Villa’s owners have spent about £400m on the squad since purchasing the club in 2018 and will back the Spaniard in the January transfer window. Villa pulled out of talks with the representatives of the Sporting head coach, Rúben Amorim, earlier on Monday. Emery’s first game in charge will be at home to Manchester United on 6 November.
The former Arsenal head coach secured the Europa League with Villarreal in 2021 after defeating Manchester United on penalties in the final and won the competition three years in a row with Sevilla from 2014 to 2016. Last season Villarreal enjoyed a fine run in the Champions League, with Emery leading them to the semi-finals by beating Juventus and Bayern Munich, before they came unstuck against Liverpool.
Emery struggled somewhat as Arsène Wenger’s successor during a short spell at the Emirates Stadium when the team finished fifth in the Premier League and lost the Europa League final against Chelsea in 2019. B ut he is recognised as one of the game’s elite coaches and Newcastle were close to appointing him last year before Emery had second thoughts over the switch.
Gerrard was sacked after less than a year in charge in the wake of an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at Fulham but he travelled back to Villa’s Bodymoor Heath training ground on the team bus and said his goodbyes to his players in the early hours of Friday. Without Gerrard, Villa defeated Brentford 4-0 on Sunday under Danks, for the side’s third win in the league this season.
Villa targeted a high-calibre coach and were interested in Mauricio Pochettino and Thomas Tuchel but quickly discovered both were non-starters. They admire Thomas Frank but did not move for the Brentford head coach.
Emery will hold a farewell press conference at Villarreal’s training ground on Tuesday morning. In a statement confirming his departure, the Spanish side said Emery “has gone down in Villarreal history” owing to his success in Europe across his two years in charge.