Express & Star

Unai Emery salutes Nicolo Zaniolo for Aston Villa 'sacrifice'

Unai Emery has thanked Nicolo Zaniolo for putting his body on the line for Villa after the Italy forward was ruled out of Euro 2024 with a broken foot.

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Zaniolo sustained the injury after coming off the bench as a substitute in Monday’s 3-3 draw with Liverpool, during what will almost certainly have been his final appearance for the club.

The 24-year-old has endured a largely frustrating season after joining on loan from Galatasaray last August, scoring just two Premier League goals and starting only nine top flight matches.

But his attitude has impressed Emery, who revealed the player had been playing through the pain barrier after sustaining a back injury in last month’s Europa Conference League tie with Lille.

“I want to make special mention of him,” said Emery. “He was a doubt but he made the effort to play against Liverpool, even though he had a lot of pain in his back.

“That was a small injury after we played Lille but it was very painful for him.

“However, he made a big effort because we needed every player pushing to be there and he played 10 minutes and unfortunately in that time he broke his metatarsal.

“He’s going to miss the European Championship now with the Italian national team and it is very sad for him.” Zaniolo was questioned by police investigating an Italian betting scandal shortly after joining Villa.

Emery continued: “The start of the season was very difficult for him but he was progressively getting better.

“In the last two months he was really really playing well and helping us. After he was injured in Lille, what happened on Monday was very sad.”