Unai Emery had a 16-month spell in charge of Arsenal which ended in November 2019

Vila-real (Spain) (AFP) - New Aston Villa coach Unai Emery said on Tuesday he had to be “cold and calculating” when deciding to leave Villarreal for the Premier League side.

The Spanish coach agreed to take over at Villa Park after Steven Gerrard was sacked, ending a successful two-and-a-half year spell at Villarreal.

Emery guided the team to the Europa League trophy in 2021 and took the team to the Champions League semi-final last season, but Villa activated his release clause on Monday to take him to England.

“When you take these decisions you have to be cold and calculating, and stick to the contracts that we sign,” Emery told reporters at Villarreal’s training ground, asked if he was leaving them in the lurch.

“I have the maturity and experienced to take decisions firmly and with respect.”

The coach said he was grateful to Villarreal, from the board to the supporters, for his time at the club.

“I have been myself here. They gave me the conditions to be myself, at my best version. You must keep having challenges, I had a home at Villarreal,” Emery said.

“I called Fernando (Roig, the president), on Friday to tell him the situation and that I wanted to be in charge for Sunday’s game and on Monday we would meet. Yesterday it all happened.”

Roig thanked Emery for his work but admitted that his decision took the club by surprise.

“It caught us on the back foot,” Roig said.

“We have a great relationship. It’s been a bit tough for us. But against adversity and change we have always shown strength. Today is about Unai Emery, his work and thanking him.

“We’ve been left in a bad position but we thank you and wish you the best.”

Villarreal are close to appointing former Barcelona and Real Betis coach Quique Setien as a replacement, according to reports in Spain.

They face Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the UEFA Conference League on Thursday, with director of football Miguel Angel Tena set to take the reins as interim coach.