Unai Emery: The mastermind behind Sevilla’s success

Posted on May 28 2015 - 7:30pm by Ben Drury

Football Express News’ Ben Drury takes a look at Sevilla’s Europa League winning coach Unai Emery and honours his work this season for the Spanish side.

The date is 25th November 2012, Unai Emery is sacked by Spartak Moscow following a 1-5 defeat at the hands of Dynamo Moscow, the clubs bitter rivals, in a passionate derby.

Sevilla, meanwhile, are comprehensively defeated 4-0 by Diego Simeone’s emerging Atletico Madrid. Fate, perhaps? Well, this proved to be a significant day in the career of Unai Emery and the history of Sevilla, one of Spain’s most supported and successful clubs.

Prior to this Emery had promoted Almeria from the Segunda B to La Liga, and then cementing Valencia’s position as the third best team in Spain for 2 seasons, despite their financial troubles. Even after the devastating sales of David Silva and David Villa, made in an attempt by the clubs hierarchy to balance the books, Emery guided Valencia to another third placed finish.

He resigned from his position at the end of that season, and it’s no coincidence that Valencia have only recently regained a position in the Champions League since his departure.

Emery was hired by Sevilla on the 14th January 2013, succeeding the sacked Míchel as manager, and guided a struggling side to a modest ninth that season, but his most impressive achievements were yet to come, and his transfer dealings have played a huge part in this, somewhat stupendous, rise.

The 2013 summer transfer window:

This was to be a hugely important transfer window for Sevilla, rebuilding was pivotal, and the board entrusted the enthusiastic Emery to do so. In fact, the starting 11 for the 2014/15 Europa League final contained nine players brought in my Emery over the past 2 seasons, an indication of the hugely impressive rebuild he achieved with the club. His first transfer window can certainly be deemed a successful one, with some of his stand-out signings being:

Carlos Bacca- Club Brugge- £6,000,000

Bacca was voted by Marca as the best signing of the 2013–14 La Liga season, an indication of the success he has enjoyed since his arrival. Clinical in front of goal, Bacca also possesses a turn of pace to frighten any defender, evident in his first goal in yesterday’s final, in which he sprinted on to Antonia Reyes’ through ball, before taking it  round the keeper and slotting it beyond the sliding Dnipro player. Having scored 7 goals in this year’s Europa League, and 20 in La Liga, Bacca has announced himself as a top quality striker, whom many managers would love to have in their squad.

Vitolo- UD Las Palmas- £2,820,000

Recently called up to the Spanish national side, Vitolo has been pivotal to the Europa League success, scoring in just 13 seconds as Sevilla beat Villarreal 1-3. Vitolo has also contributed to the league success, with 6 goals to his name, and won La Liga player of the month in March of this year.

Beto- Braga- £1,760,000

Beto was the hero in the 2013/14 Europa league final, in which he saved 2 penalties, from Oscar Cardozo and Rodrigo, to help win the penalty shoot-out. Despite struggling to solidify his place this season, largely due to injuries and the form of Rico González, Beto can still be considered an excellent signing for such a nominal fee.

However, it is not just the success that these signings have enjoyed since arriving that is staggering, it is the fact that the club sold £80,000,000 worth of players in the same transfer window, including the likes of Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas and Geoffrey Kondogbia. In total, Emery signed £30,000,000 worth of players that transfer window, making a £50,000,000 profit.

To lose so many star names and enjoy the success that followed is truly remarkable. The season which followed saw Sevilla climb to fifth in La Liga, while beating the Portuguese giants Benfica on penalties in the Europa League final to claim their 3rd triumph in this competition in just 7 seasons.

This success inevitably led to players such as Ivan Rakatic and Alberto Moreno, stand out performers throughout the season, being highly sought and eventually leaving the club for a combined £30,000,000 (£15,000,000 respectively).

Again, Emery had to rebuild.

The 2014 summer transfer window:

The signings made by Emery in this window are truly remarkable, he made a good side into an even better one with some incredibly astute transfers. Some were a risk, Ever Banega, for example, was notorious for his drinking habits. However despite making a £26,000,000 profit, he achieved the same league position and retained the Europa League title, which had added benefit this year, as winning it now guarantees a Champions League place for next season. Some stand out signings include:

Aleix Vidal- Almeria- £2,640,000

Vidal has been hugely influencial this season for Sevilla, providing real pace down the flanks and becoming accustomed to the demanding work ethic Emery demands from all his players. Vidal was signed from one of Emery’s former clubs, Almeria, and has established himself in the first team with some gutsy performances, most notably in the home game against Barcelona, in which Sevilla came from 2 goals down to draw 2-2. Vidal assisted Kevin Gameiro’s equaliser in the 84th minute with a low, pin-point cross, enough to salvage a point.

Ever Banega- Valencia- £2,200,000

An absolute steal for this money, I’m sure that anyone who watched the Europa League final this year were aware of his importance in the side. He’s the playmaker, with a phenomenal range of passing and an exquisite first touch, Banega has been key to the success of Sevilla. After signing for Valencia in 2008 as a raw 19-year-old, Banega’s career never really got going at the club, and after a loan at the Argentine club Newell’s Old Boys, Emery, having managed him at Valencia, convinced him that Sevilla was the right club for him.  His corner taking ability can also not go unnoticed, in an age in which so many corners are cleared away by the first man, Banega appears to have mastered the art, consistently landing his corners in a dangerous area.

Grzegorz Krychowiak- Stade Reims- £4,840,000

Krychowiak, 25, has become one of the most highly-regarded defensive midfielders in Europe after his performances this season. An ever-present in the Sevilla side this season, Krychowiak has been names man of the match 5 times, scoring 2 goals. However his goal tally is not relevant, his positional sense in the heart of midfield, breaking up play and winning tackles has drawn comparisons to Nemanja Matic. Don’t be surprised if Krychowiak is high on the list of many top European clubs this summer.

Why this managerial job should be so highly regarded:

In total, Sevilla have made a £76,000,000 profit inside Emery’s 2 full seasons. These 2 seasons also happen to be 2 of the most successful in the clubs long and famed history. The combination of these 2 things, prove that Unai Emery should be given the same, if not more credit, than the likes of Diego Simeone and Jurgen Klopp.

Yes, his achievements are on a slightly lesser stage, however the stability he has brought to the club and the improvements he has made to an ageing squad, which required rebuilding, while bringing in a £76,000,000 transfer profit should be considered one of the best managerial successes of the modern era.

Unai Emery will live long in the hearts and memories of the Sevilla faithful, and certainly in those of the owners, whom, despite little investment, are able to celebrate great success and a place in the Champions league, where the footballing riches are truly held.

NOTE: All transfer figures are taken from www.transfermarkt.co.uk