Interview

Emery: a midfielder from a family of keepers

Unai Emery’s father, Juan, was a goalkeeper. Unai’s grandfather, Antonio, was one too.

 
But, although goalkeeping is in the Emery genes, Unai took a different path when his own playing career started in Spain.
 
“In my house, when I was young, football was the conversation between us every day,” recalled our head coach.
 
“But my first idea when I had the ball was to play with my feet. Then I would start to play with my left foot as well, like a player. My father and grandfather were goalkeepers but I started playing with the ball at my feet, like an [outfield] player.”
 
Unai forged a career as a left-sided midfielder before injury forced him to retire at the age of 32. But that famous family tradition has been continued - by Unai’s son.
 
“Now my son is different to me because he is a goalkeeper, and his first memory is of playing with my father as a goalkeeper,” he said.
 
“I spoke with him about my grandfather also being a goalkeeper, and now he’s playing as a goalkeeper. My son is continuing this position and, for me, it’s also good news because he wants that.”
 
A goalkeeper’s duties have changed dramatically since Juan and Antonio Emery were between the posts. A change to the backpass rule in the nineties transformed the role, and the technical requirements have increased considerably.
 
“First, the goalkeeper [just] had to be safe and to be in the goal with a good performance, that meant he was ready,” said Unai. “Now, it’s true that the goalkeeper has a lot of demands to play with their feet and link up with other players in the game.
 
“The role is changing but I think it’s a good process in football.”