“My thinking slowly changed” – Aston Villa clash ‘extra special’ for Dutchman, all because of Unai Emery – Sport Witness

With Aston Villa set to face Ajax Amsterdam in the next round of the Conference League, the matchup will be ‘extra special’ for Hedwiges Maduro.

That’s according to Voetbal International, who have some quotes from the Dutch assistant manager, who has been in his role since the beginning of the season, even taking over as interim for five days in October.

The 39-year-old knows the Aston Villa manager well from his time as a player, first encountering Emery in 2008 at Valencia.

That’s when the Spaniard’s ideas started to resonate with the Dutchman, who discovered a different way of playing after so many years of dominating in the Netherlands with Ajax Amsterdam.

He said: “The first thing he asked me was: what is dominating? I was taking about having the ball, getting chances. What I was used to at Ajax, playing in the opponent’s half. He replied: ‘Yes, but you have to have the ball first. We also play against Barça, Real, Atlético and Sevilla. Those can be games where they have the ball more often’.

“What are we going to do then? Can we still dominate then? Yes we can. If Barça have 70% of the ball and don’t get a single chance and we come out dangerous, who is then dominatng? That’s how my thinking has slowly changed.”

What became apparent for Maduro about the now Aston Villa manager was his ability to change his team around to fit the opponent rather than try and go by a certain method no matter who they were playing.

The then defensive midfielder, who teamed up with Emery again at Sevilla, also discovered the excellent man management skills on display.

He added: “Every player is different, and I learned a lot from Emery in that regard. He just sent me to Holland and then explained to the group that I was a family and needed a day to travel, a day off and another day to come back. Everyone just accepted it. Greet your family, enjoy it and that was really nice.”

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