Where next for Unai Emery?

Colin Millar by Colin Millar / 23 April 2018, 15:41

There are few clubs in European football upon which such a small set of results dictate the success, or otherwise, of a season than Paris Saint-Germain.

Since his appointment in the summer of 2016, Unai Emery has guided the Parisians to six trophies domestically and can collect a seventh next month with a Coupe de France final victory over third-tier Les Herbiers.

Yet this all pales into irrelevance when measuring the Spaniard’s success at the Qatari-owned club due to the perceived failings on a European stage. It is hard to argue against the fact that PSG should be doing better in Europe and that a portion of the blame lies at Emery’s door but his scapegoating does not reflect the reality of the situation.

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Under the former Valencia and Sevilla boss, the Parisians breezed through successive group stages before being met with arguably the toughest last 16 opponents in successive seasons - Barcelona and Real Madrid. Sure, Emery’s cautious approach in the second leg in 2017 did not work but the spectacular psychological collapse of his side, both individually and collectively, does not lie at his door. Such blame is also to forget that the tactical masterpiece in the first leg which saw PSG blow the Catalan giants away 4-0.

This season’s elimination at the hands of Madrid cannot be attributed to tactics - PSG enjoyed the better of the first leg in Madrid but individual indecisiveness at both ends of the pitch proved their undoing.

Stating that PSG’s tenure under Emery has been a failure is similar to saying that Pep Guardiola’s achievements at Manchester City have been undermined by lack of success in Europe. Lets not forget, Emery guided Sevilla to three consecutive Europa League titles - he is no fool when it comes to European knockout football.

Yet such are the demands and expectations in the French capital that such protestations will fall upon deaf ears and Emery will leave at the end of the campaign.

But where will he end up?

The most likely destination is Real Sociedad - Emery’s boyhood club.

“I have always liked La Real, whether that is right now or in the future," Emery was reported as saying by Marca, cited by Football Espana.

“Real Sociedad have always had an important place in my heart; it is where I spent ten years and it is where I grew up. I do not know if one day I will return to the club in a professional capacity but it is my intention to do so at some point in the future.”

The Basque-native spent six years as a played at the San Sebastian club but made only five La Liga appearances, before moving to the lower leagues in Spain. Imanol Alguacil is currently the Coach at La Real but he has been appointed on an interim basis until the end of the campaign following Eusebio Sacristan’s dismissal.

There is also likely to be a vacancy open across the Basque Country at Athletic Club Bilbao. Jose Angel Ziganda will reportedly be dismissed after just one season, with the club targeting former Sevilla boss Eduardo Berizzo. However, recent indications suggest the two are haggling over the financial package involved in the deal meaning they may perhaps look elsewhere.

There will be vacancies at other top European clubs - Arsenal and Chelsea most notably - although whether or not Emery would wish to move to England is another question, although his track record of success has often been underreported. He has guided PSG to 86 victories in 109 matches - a remarkable win rate of 79%.

The manager admits to being a pesado - hard working, constantly thinking, often to the point of irritating those around him. Watch him on the touchline and he won’t sit still, constantly pacing his line and reacting to every decision. He drills this work ethic into his players, often sending them home with lengthy DVDs to analyse their performances and that of direct opponents.

The 47-year-old now has 13 years in top-level management. Starting off at tiny Lorca - whom he guided to the second tier, narrowly missing out on promotion to the top flight - Emery moved to another Andalusian side, Almeria, where he did achieve promotion to La Liga, a first for the club. Again overachieving, they finished eighth the following year before Valencia offered him the management job.

Emery guided Los Che to sixth, third, third and third in La Liga, despite being restricted by the sale of star players David Silva, David Villa and Juan Mata. An unsuccessful jaunt to Spartak Moscow followed before a return to Spain with Sevilla, where he brought his side unparalleled success in Europe. His obsession with tactics, adaptation and work rate makes him more pragmatic than most and he may not always be the most popular with his players, but many need this tough love to excel.

What is for sure, Emery is a manager with a track record of success over the course of a decade and clubs should take note of his qualities before hastily moving on to other targets.

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