Where are they now? Unai Emery’s most expensive signing from every season since 2010


We can surely all agree that Unai Emery is doing a brilliant job at Aston Villa, and we can’t get enough of it.

Everyone’s favourite bloodsucking, tactically astute sideline vampire looks set to be taking on the Champions League next season. The downside of that achievement is that, next season, teams won’t drop from the Champions League to the Europa League.

Emery loves the Europa League. Never mind, though. Can’t have it all. We needed to satiate our Emery pang, so we’re taking a look at his most expensive signing from each season he’s been a manager, and where they’re at in 2024.

2010: Roberto Soldado

Before becoming a maligned figure at Tottenham, Soldado had been truly outstanding for Valencia. The Spaniard managed 30 goals across all comps in his final season with Los Ches, and never scored fewer than 17 league goals in his three seasons there.

Sometimes it’s just about getting good players in teams that make the most of their talents. Soldado never really managed to replicate the magic he produced in Valencia, and retired last year, aged 37.

READ: 14 of the best, worst & weirdest player unveilings in football history

2011: Victor Ruiz

Before joining Emery at Valencia, Ruiz joined Napoli in quite a strange transfer. The Spanish centre-back joined Napoli from Espanyol for €6million plus the Italians “ceding the sporting rights” to Jesus Datalo, who was on loan at Espanyol at the time.

Not sure what that means.

Did the loan become permanent? What are sporting rights? Lawyers, get in touch.

Half a season later, Valencia paid Napoli €8million for Ruiz, after he’d made just seven appearances for the Italians. As a spooky master of ceremonies in the hit musical Cabaret once said — a mark, a yen, a buck, or a pound, money makes the world go round.

Ruiz is back with Espanyol in the Segunda Division, now. A farewell tour, surely.

2012: Romulo

We’re into Emery’s brief, season-long stint at Spartak Moscow, now. His spenniest signing, that season, was rangy Brazilian defensive midfielder Romulo. They produce a lot of those, Brazil, don’t they?

Romulo is now back in Brazil, competing in the Campeonato Pernambucano for a team called Retro. There’s another midfielder on Retro’s books called Ratinho. Played with a few Ratinhos down the Power League on a Wednesday night, let us tell you.

2013: Carlos Bacca

Carlos Bacca was, for like three-and-a-half seasons, absolutely mint. The Colombian was Emery’s most expensive signing in his first season in charge at Sevilla, but that was objectively money well spent.

Bacca is now in his native Colombia, scoring tons of goals for Atletico Junior, the former team of Liverpool’s Luis Diaz and FC Incredible Hair’s Carlos Valderrama. Atletico Junior’s nicknames include The Sharks, The Kings of the Coast, and, Your Dad.

That’s not a joke. Carlos Bacca plays for your dad.


READ NEXT: The incredible Premier League table since Aston Villa appointed Unai Emery

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name the clubs these 20 former Aston Villa stars are playing for in 2024?


2014: Grzegorz Krychowiak

Rumour has it that if you say Grzegorz Krychowiak’s name in a mirror three times, Paul Merson will appear and mispronounce his name.

Emery only spent €4.5million on the man they call the Polish Terminator, but that was more than he spent on anyone else in 2014. The man is thrifty. knows a player when he sees one, does Unai.

Last year, Krychowiak said gimme, gimme, gimme a payslip from Saudi, and signed for a club called Abha Saudi Pro League.

2015: Steven Nzonzi

After spending on a defensive midfielder in 2014, Emery wanted more. He got a taste of that defensive solidity and he just couldn’t stop. He whacked £7million in Stoke City’s business account and brought Nzonzi to Seville.

The Frenchman is 35 now, and on a one-year contract at Konyaspor in the Turkish Super Lig.

2016: Grzegorz Krychowiak

Again with this guy? Unai took Krychowiak with him to Paris when he was put in charge of the money-filled pit of madness that is Paris Saint-Germain. You already know about Krychowiak, so allow us to give you two fun facts:

1. Krychowiak has 100 caps for Poland.

2. He doesn’t drink or party. No, you’re right, they weren’t fun facts. We’ll do better.

2017: Neymar

We’re into silly money territory, now. PSG paid Barcelona €222million for Neymar in 2017. That’s £198million. That’s still considerably more than the next most expensive transfer in history (Kylian Mbappe, also to PSG). 

And the Parisian’s still haven’t won the Champions League (if you’re reading this article after 1st June 2024, you may have to ignore that mild diss we just laid down).

The Brazilian is at Al-Hilal, now, although he has been deregistered due to injury, so that they could sign Renan Lodi as a designated foreigner. So, technically, Neymar is clubless. Kind of.

2018: Lucas Torreira

You just know Torreira would be an absolute bastard to play against. Just leaving his studs on your ankle whenever he got the chance, probably nipping you at corners, poking his fingers into your ribs. A definite nightmare.

Fun fact on Torreira, he was born in Fray Bentos, Uruguay. Like the pies. Like the pies that come in a tin that your dad eats in front of the telly. Anyway, Sampdoria charged Arsenal £26million for Torreira’s services. A bargain compared to Neymar.

The Uruguayan has been at Galatasaray since 2022. The Super Lig feels like his spiritual home. Chaos wherever you look.

Unai Emery during his first match in charge of Arsenal against Manchester City in the Premier League at Emirates Stadium, London, August 2018.

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name Arsenal’s XI from Unai Emery’s first game in 2018?

2019: Nicolas Pepe

Pepe cost the Gunners £72million. The Ivorian is obviously extremely talented but, having seen how it all panned out for him in North London, that has to go down as an absolute stinker for the recruitment department.

He left for Trabzonspor on a free, last year, despite having a year left on his contract. Yikes.

2020: Pervis Estupinan

Watford signed Estupinan for an undisclosed fee in 2016, never played him, sent him on hundreds of loans, and sold him to Villareal for almost £15million four years later.

You could call that good business, depending on what they paid for the Ecuadorian, if it wasn’t for the fact that he is absolutely class at football.

He’s at Brighton, these days. You know that already. Wouldn’t be surprised if one of the European big boys comes in for him in the summer. Let’s see.

2021: Arnaut Danjuma

Danjuma joined Emery’s Villareal from Bournemouth for €25million in 2021. The Nigerian-born Dutchman has threatened to be something special for some time, but hasn’t quite managed to set the world alight the way his potential suggested he might.

Danjuma is on loan at Everton now, but is still technically a Villareal player.

2022: Johan Mojica

Villareal’s Colombian left-back joined from Elche for €5.5million. He spent one season on loan with The Yellow Submarine, and is now on loan at fellow La Liga side Osasuna.

2023: Moussa Diaby

Diaby was coveted by many of European football’s big clubs after an eye-catching four seasons at Bayer Leverkusen. Emery knew all about the Frenchman from their shared time at PSG, and when Villa managed to lure him to Birmingham for €55million, it was quite the coup.

Diaby has played every league game for the Villains so far, this season, and has been integral to their success. It looks like he’s going to be a Champions League player again next season, which is nothing more than he and his side deserve.

2024: Morgan Rogers

Rogers was signed by Man City to be part of their under-21 side in 2019. He immediately went out on loan, spending seasons with Lincoln City, Bournemouth, and Blackpool before Middlesbrough came in for him on a permanent, last summer.

Highly rated by all in the know, having represented England at every age group apart from the senior team, Rogers spent just six months on Teesside before Emery’s Aston Villa decided to pluck him from the Championship.

Villa coughed up £8million for the young Englishman, and he’s now a regular started at Villa Park. We think this one may turn out to be a hell of a bargain.





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