Nico and Iñaki Williams. / E.P.

Unfinished business

Unai Emery finally returns to the Premier League after several years

ROB PALMER / COMMENTATOR, ESPN

Get your money on Aston Villa to reach the 2023 Europa League final as Unai Emery exports his managerial expertise back to England.

The excitable and likeable Spanish coach politely declined Newcastle United last year, citing "a clear lack of vision" from the new owners as the reason to stay put at Villarreal. He completed his project at El Madrigal by taking the small-town team to the semi-final of the Champions League.

So, what's changed in 12 months and why Aston Villa? It's perplexing a few people.

Villarreal will be heading into the knockout stages of the Europa Conference League; in La Liga, they've made a decent start to the season and boasted the best defence until they visited Barcelona last week.

On the downside are the limitations he faced at Villarreal and the vast scope at Aston Villa.

Villarreal is a side based in the Spanish potteries, comparable to Port Vale in England. They're not even as big as Stoke City.

The stadium is undergoing renovation, so they've been playing their home games at Levante's ground. The best he can achieve is winning the Europa Conference League final and maybe a top four finish. He'd also made it clear that he planned to end his project at Villareal this summer.

Emery may also feel that he has unfinished business in England. He did take Arsenal to the final of his specialist competition, the Europa League, but they thought higher of themselves.

Aston Villa fans aren't slow to tell you that they were once European champions, but they would be delighted to compete in the secondary UEFA competition. It's a big city club with a huge fan base and rich history.

The current 15th place standing is below the true potential of a team which has been built with the financial backing of the club's owners. Steven Gerrard, a rookie manager, ran out of ideas and things went stale.

Emery will inject energy, if not only on the touchline where he never stops cajoling and orchestrating. The biggest criticism in his first spell in England was a struggle with getting his personality over because of the language barrier. Hopefully he's continued his studies.

I fully expect there to be many good evenings at Villa Park soon, usually Thursday evenings with Europa League opposition in tow. He's not finished outside the top-seven of places of whatever league he's managed in for the past seven years and that's a realistic aim for his new club, Aston Villa.

Expect Unai to be as successful at Villa as his other Villas -Sev-villa and Villa-real.