"It was a tough one to do yesterday, it was put to me very late," revealed McLeish in the Birmingham Mail.
"They wanted to sell him. We had a stab at getting him on loan because we felt Betis wouldn't want to go through D-Day without getting him off the wages.
"It was an ambitious effort and I thank the board for trying to go for it. We didn't quite do it, however.
"He's a different player to Tainio. More a middle to front, an attacking type. He's strong and it would have been interesting to see him in England."
So one to consider in the future?
"Possibly further down the line, you never know," said McLeish. "We will see what develops over the course of this season. Hopefully, the lads will continue to show the belief they have in the opening games, then there's no reason why we can't look to invest in players like Emana."