Dani Parejo has sung the praises of Villarreal manager Unai Emery ahead of their semi-final clash with Arsenal in the Europa League.
Villarreal will welcome the Gunners to El Madrigal for the first leg of the tie on Thursday night, with Emery set to come up against his former employers for the first time since being relieved of his duties at Emirates Stadium in November 2019.
Parejo previously worked with Emery when he was in charge at Valencia in 2011-12 and has been impressed with how far the 49-year-old has come as a coach since reuniting with him at Villarreal last summer.
- Harness Ronaldo, liberate Sancho and win something! Erik ten Hag's key objectives at Man Utd
- Laura Blindkilde Brown: England’s De Bruyne-inspired teen who overcame heart surgery
- Beckham, Henry, Ibrahimovic and the 21 best MLS transfer signings of all time
- Best Lionel Messi goals of all time: From Clasico crackers to Champions League solo efforts
What's been said?
“I knew Unai from my first stage in Valencia. Neither he is the one I met in Valencia nor am I the one he was in Valencia when we met," Parejo told Goal.
"For me he is a great coach because of how he prepares, how he studies the rival, he is clear about the approaches of each game and has evolved in every way: when it comes to training, motivational talks, understanding the player in different circumstances, having psychology… I have always said that for me the best coaches I had had were [Ernesto] Valverde and Marcelino.
"And I would like to add Emery. In Valencia I was young, I had many coaches and I have seen how they worked a lot and Unai is one of the best, of course. I think he is several steps above as a coach."
Emery's managerial record
Emery landed the top job at Valencia in 2008 after previous roles at Almeria and Lorca Deportiva, and spent four years at Mestalla before joining Spartak Moscow.
The Spaniard returned to his homeland in 2013 with Sevilla, who he guided to three successive Europa League crowns, attracting attention from Paris Saint-Germain in the process.
Emery added seven more trophies to his haul in France, including one Ligue 1 title, before being picked to succeed Arsene Wenger in the dugout at Arsenal in the summer of 2018.
He only lasted 18 months at the Emirates, despite overseeing their run to a Europa League final, but has rebuilt his reputation at Villarreal this term by guiding them to the last four of that competition and seventh in La Liga.
Parejo's assessment of Arsenal
Parejo also discussed the challenge Arsenal will pose Villarreal as they bid to set up a final clash against either Manchester United or Roma at Stadion Energa Gdansk on May 26.
“Arsenal have a great team, they have great individuals and in any situation they are capable of solving games and that is true that we have to take into account," he said.
"We are a solid block, we have things clear, we want to be protagonists, take the initiative and play in the opponent's field.
"I think this is going to be decided in detail, because important games are almost always decided that way.
"If we capture what we want and have control of the game with the ball, we will have options to play in the final of the Europa League."