Most of us know his football CV, an underwhelming football career, moving into management after a serious injury to his knee; successfully taking lower league sides up through the divisions before landing the respected job at Valencia. He stayed there for three seasons doing perfectly well and then bizarrely he left to work with Spartak Moscow. Now for the life of me I cannot work out why he would want to go and work in Moscow, so if anyone can throw some light on this please do. He was sacked after 6 months due to bad results.
He returned to Spain to take the reins of Sevilla and, as we all know, he won the Europa three times. Sensibly in my opinion he moved on, I say sensibly because the only way was down after that kind of success. He took the offer to join PSG and won a series of various French trophies which no one cares about because it is about as meaningful as reading the list of Celtic’s palmares.
It is thought that the reason he left PSG was because he found it impossible to micro manage the likes of Neymar. I have added the word micro myself as that in my opinion is what he does and by the way I am in all favour of it as it seems to be working well at the home of football.
Gazidis gave some cock and ball story on how the club were interviewing 5 different candidates for Wenger’s job, yeah, yeah, yeah. In reality it seems we were hours away from appointing the only decent option available and that was Arteta. Now if you were not scared about the idea of someone with zero managerial experience taking the helm then you should have been. Anyway, rather than drag up the past I believe we got lucky in the sense that all of a sudden PSG wanted rid of Emery and we needed someone just like him. So, right place right time.
Interestingly, or certainly interestingly to me, we seemed to have got lucky in a similar way with our Director of Football, Raul Sanllehi. This guy’s credentials are something special; to keep it short, he really was the top dog at Barcelona for a long, long time, no easy task in that cut throat world. From what I can gather he was, among many other things, the one that was able to keep “Team Messi” on side for so long; he finally fell from grace over losing Neymar. Lucky us, right place right time.
Sanllehi (far right seated)
Back to Unai Emery, let’s start with his full name and an explanation “Unai Emery Etxegoien” It is very common in Spain to have two last names “Etxegoien” is his mother’s name and is as Basque as Basque can be, I can’t find the meaning so if anyone can please let me know?
Quick language history lesson, the majority of languages in Europe descended from the region now called India hence the name Indo European. But Basque predates all of them; it is a Stone Age language that has somehow survived. Quick story, most languages have to deal with the Anglo Saxon bulldozer, the word computer is a good recent example; most countries, in an attempt to stop even more English entering their language’s vocabulary found a replacement that sounded a bit more like their own. France = ordinateur, you get the drift. But Basque is so old that they had issues long before when the new-fangled “Scissors” came along, so being a Stone Age language their solution was to use the Basque equivalent of Two Sharp Stones, get it? You have no idea how much I dine out on that story in Spain.
Our Manager’s first name, Unai, is very common in the Basque Country and it means ‘shepherd’. His father’s name, Emery is confusing because it does not sound Basque and it does not sound Spanish, again if anyone knows the origin please let me know.
To me the Basque Country represents the industrial north of Spain; I think it is possible to draw direct comparisons with the UK: “Sophistication, I’ve been to Leeds”. I put this down to why Emery is poorly dressed: the jacket he wears fits him so badly, the shirt looks like something that the club gives out to anyone working there and the tie is sloppy.
I don’t want to be too harsh on the Basque Country because they do have the beautiful San Sebastian (or Donostia in Basque) and by way of example, it has as many Michelin-starred restaurants in that little town as we do in London. I do not pray at the Michelin Guide’s altar but it does give an idea of how the town takes its food seriously and trust me I have put in hours and hours of research into this! That care for food does trickle down to the more everyday eateries such as Tapas Bars.
Tapas, we have all heard of Tapas, what does it mean and where does it come from? It comes from the Spanish word ‘Tapar’ which means to cover and goes back to, let’s say, Shakespearean times – a long time ago. Coachmen used to enter the inn, get a tankard of beer or wine and on top would be slices of ham or cheese covering the top of the tankard. Tapar = cover, Tapas = expensive “covers” you find in the now fashionable Upper Street, Islington. There is one last important thing here and that is because Basques want to protect their own language: remember Two Sharp Stones? Well, in the Basque Country, Tapas are called Pinxos and they are on another level of fantasticness.
Again back to Emery and in particular his hair: the style of slicked back and dyed has, without any shadow of a doubt, been influenced by his time at Seville; they take their appearance a lot more seriously down there; watch the crowd come out of the main bull ring in Seville, a very dressy occasion, and you will see half the men with that hair style.
Photo by Lindsey PARNABY / AFP/Getty Images
So who is Unai Emery? I think I have hardly scratched the surface. I wanted to go into how much he has changed the club but realised that I have waffled on for longer than I expected – maybe next time.