Emery’s PSG battle tactics make some in Spain happy

FUENTERRABIA, Spain: A proud Basque, Unai Emery takes part every year in his home town’s commemorations of a famous victory over the French, but on Wednesday he will be very much in the French camp. The Spanish coach’s Paris Saint-Germain take on Barcelona in the Champions League with an unbelievable 4-0 lead after Emery’s battle tactics pulled off one of the biggest shocks of the competition in the last 16, first leg.
Emery will be looking to seal progress to the quarter-finals when leading his team into the lion’s den of the Camp Nou.  And this time, Emery’s home town of Fuenterrabia will be supporting the French. The 45-year-old Emery prays at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe overlooking the fishing port on the Basque coast, according to his friends.
Every year he attends festivities there in early September to mark the victory in 1638 over French forces who laid siege to Fuenterrabia. Football is a family business for Emery, who started playing on the town football pitches, near the picturesque port and houses with coloured terraces where the Ikurrinas Basque flag often hangs. His grandfather won the Spanish Cup twice with Irun and his father played for Deportivo La Coruna. Both were goalkeepers.
Coach’s prayers
But Emery was never a top player, unlike many of his coaching counterparts, having got stuck in the Real Sociedad reserve team during five seasons at the club.
He did play five first division games in 1995-1996 but then moved to second division teams Toledo, Ferrol and Leganes.
“He was small, very light, but skillful, he was good on the ball, a good dribbler and he had a good vision,” said Mikel Jauregui, coach of the Hondarribia team, who later became Emery’s assistant when he was coach at Valencia and Spartak Moscow. The two remain close friends.
Emery went to Lorca in third division, where at the age of 32 he started a meteoric rise as a coach that saw culminated in him winning three straight Europa League titles with Sevilla from 2014-2016, catching the eye of the PSG power-brokers.