Unai Emery would have been preparing to visit his old club, Arsenal, next weekend, had he accepted Newcastle’s offer earlier in the month.
Instead, he is hatching a way to surpass Manchester United in an attempt to guide Villarreal to the knockout stages of the Champions League for only the third time in club history.
It was a victory for him when Newcastle called: either accepted the riches on offer or held on to the Champions League challenge.
Unai Emery turned down Newcastle’s offer of riches to stay in Villarreal’s job
Emery loves the Europa League, with Villarreal beating Man United on penalties in Gdansk last season, but would love to lead them to Champions League knockouts this season.
What Champions League Group F looks like with two rounds of matches to complete
Villarreal reached the semi-finals of the competition in 2006 and, after winning their first trophy last summer, Emery wants to emulate the achievement of Manuel Pellegrini 15 years ago.
They came close to taking something away from Old Trafford last month, denied a point by a Cristiano Ronaldo goal in the 95th minute.
That meant his two games against the Young Boys rose to prominence and the second game three weeks ago could have gone awry when preparations were hit by Emery’s seemingly imminent departure.
There was no doubt that his head was turned. The Villarreal players began talking among themselves about the possibility of losing their coach and the club’s president, Fernando Roig, prepared for his departure.
The 74-year-old Ceramics magnate, who bought the club 24 years ago when he was in the Second Division and no one outside of Spain had heard of him, had launched a teleconference with various international media on the morning of the Young. Children play at home.
Paco Alcacer scored for Villarreal in the reverse match at Old Trafford in September
But they were stunned when Cristiano Ronaldo scored his winning goal in the 96th minute.
It is commendable that he did not cancel the engagement and instead told reporters: “I don’t know anything about it” when asked about Emery and Newcastle.
No one has said anything. There has been no communication, nothing. I don’t know where the story came from. ‘
It soon became clear to him that the man who signed to win Villarreal’s first silver piece had a very slim chance of being on training ground introducing himself to the Newcastle players the next morning.
Emery told his players to focus on the game and nothing else, and after winning 2-0 he admitted in his post-match television interview that Newcastle had shown interest, hinting that they now needed to speak to Villarreal.
He had already had a 50-minute meeting with the club’s chief executive, Fernando Roig Negueroles (the president’s son) and then drove home to nearby Valencia from Villarreal.
That trip takes about 50 minutes and on the car phone, talking to Roig Jr. again, he decided to stay.
Villarreal celebrated last weekend beating Celta de Vigo but they lack consistency
He didn’t like the pressure they put him on on match day. He was not happy that the story was out in England and that he was dominating a big Champions League night.
So it was not so difficult for Roig Jr. to convince him to stay put.
Emery now needs to make what was one of the most important decisions in his managerial career seem like the right choice.
Villarreal need to continue to win last season’s Europa League and thrive at home and abroad. At the moment, Emery has not been able to achieve it.
Villarreal’s domestic season is stagnant. Game after game they do enough to win, but they don’t. Now there are seven draws and they are 12th, 10 points behind the Champions League positions.
They dominated Celta de Vigo on Saturday, but out of 18 shots they only scored once and when goalkeeper Gero Rulli couldn’t contain Fran Beltrán’s shot, Brais Mendes scored the equalizer.
In the end, Emery’s team had to settle for a point in Vigo as they usually do this season
In Europe things have been different. Doing the double over Young Boys has left them second, two points ahead of third-placed Atalanta, with two games to play.
The belief is that their strength lies in how well they play knockout football and if they can get through to the second round they could break into the competition, especially under the command of cup king Emery, who has reached five finals of the Europa League with three different teams, lifting the trophy four times.
It will not be easy for everyone that United is in crisis. Villarreal is still missing his talisman Gerard Moreno, who scored in the Europa League final, and could be joined on the bench by Etienne Capoue, Paco Alcácer and Dutch international winger Arnaut Danjuma, who is having a good season since moving to The league. Bournemouth.
They all missed the weekend’s draw, as did Spanish winger Yeremy Pino, who is also a bit short of being in top form.
They also feel that playing United in the first game after the manager change will make it even more difficult for them.
Spanish midfielder Dani Parejo is wary of a United rebound after his recent troubles
“When things like this happen, good players respond and give their best,” said captain Dani Parejo, who after many years at Valencia knows a thing or two about what happens when a coach leaves.
If Villarreal win on Tuesday night, the city of 50,000 can celebrate their departure from the group.
And Emery may feel a bit more justified in his decision to turn down that move to Newcastle.