The big party stage left “Mr. Europa League «rather its players. While the professionals were happily cutting memorabilia from the goal net in Gdansk and forgetting ghost games with the accompanying football fans singing out loud in the stadium, record coach Unai Emery enjoyed his historic triumph with a smile in the background. The premier title for Villarreal was also Emery’s fourth success in the Europa League. No coach won the second most important European club competition more often. And the win against the great Manchester United could hardly have been more dramatic.
After a thrilling 120 minutes, Villarreal only prevailed in an unprecedented thriller from the penalty spot with 11:10 (1: 1, 1: 1, 1: 0). The hero of the evening was goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli. The Argentine is only a substitute in the Spanish league, but in the Europa League he has now paid back Emery’s trust: After all ten field players from both teams had scored, the 29-year-old Rulli first converted himself and then parried the penalty kick from Manchester goalkeeper David de Gea.
His English striker colleague Marcus Rashford complained a few hours after the lost final about more than 70 racist insults on his social media channels. He was particularly “shocked” that he had been sent “a mountain of monkey emojis” by a math teacher with a public profile. “He teaches children !! And he knows that he can freely racially insult me without consequences, ”Rashford wrote.
Fortunately, Villarreals, the guarantee of victory, did not have to struggle with such terrible attacks. “I haven’t shot a penalty in my life,” said goalkeeper Rulli in disbelief after the win. “But I’ve never had a happier day than today.” He not only brought his club the greatest success in club history, but also participation in the premier class in the coming season. “The Champions League is the jackpot,” said a delighted coach Emery. But first he wanted to celebrate what he had achieved. “We believe that something can be achieved with hard work. And when you get there, you have to enjoy it, too, ”he said.
Last but not least, the coach himself now needs some relaxation after moving times. Following three Europa League titles with Sevilla FC, Emery moved to Paris Saint-Germain in 2016. However, the now 49-year-old was just as rarely able to meet the high expectations there as he was later at Arsenal FC. The fact that Emery now threw the Londoners out in the semifinals on the way to triumph in his first season with Villarreal is just another punch line in the Spanish coach’s vita. He didn’t feel any satisfaction, however, assured Emery.
In the next season, Villarreal will be able to prove its skills on the largest of all stages. “We have to rest now and then prepare for the next season,” said midfielder Étienne Capoue. “Because the Champions League will be on a completely different level.” Dpa / nd