Zach LaVine knows the Chicago Bulls must swiftly discover a winning formula after Saturday's loss to the Detroit Pistons.

LaVine had a career-high 51 points but it was not enough for the Bulls to avoid a second defeat of the campaign.

Chicago lost 118-102 in Detroit, as they failed to build on their 104-103 defeat of the Toronto Raptors.

The Bulls have made the playoffs just once since the start of the 2017-18 season, and LaVine knows Chicago must expect better.

"It's our third year here together, and we know how this business is," said LaVine, who became the first Bulls player with 50 points and no assists since the legendary Michael Jordan against the Miami Heat in November 1996.

"We all love each other. DeMar [DeRozan] is one of my best friends, and we talk all the time, but we have to figure out how to make this work.

"I wasn't happy with the way I was performing and the way the offense was looking. It's upsetting you have a performance like that and lose. It sucks.

"We don't want this to snowball where we have our backs against the wall. We are working every day. We have to figure it out."

LaVine was a late pick for Saturday's game, having overcome back issues to play.

"You know me, I'm going to play," he added.

Andre Drummond believes reaching 10,000 career rebounds would cement his place as the best rebounder in NBA history, with the Chicago Bulls center closing in on the milestone.

Drummond has 9,968 total rebounds to his name following the Bulls' 124-104 defeat against the Oklahoma City Thunder in their 2023-24 season opener on Thursday.

Having led the NBA in rebounds four times in 11 seasons, Drummond looks certain to reach five figures in the coming weeks, with just 32 more required. 

A struggle for regular minutes has limited Drummond's chances of climbing the NBA's all-time rebounding charts, topped by legendary duo Wilt Chamberlain (23,924) and Bill Russell (21,620).

However, Drummond has previously claimed to be the best rebounder in league history, a belief he reiterated when asked about the importance of hitting the milestone. 

"It puts a lot in perspective for myself and just for the public," Drummond told Stats Perform. "I always tell everybody I feel like I'm the best ever to do it.

"Despite me having – or being about to have – 10,000 rebounds, I think my body of work and my percentages and numbers help prove that.

"Honestly, it just shows the amount of work I put in. Every year I set a goal to be the best rebounder, each and every season.

"To have the honour of reaching 10,000… not too many people have the chance to do that. So I am with a group of high-calibre guys."

Drummond led the league for rebounds in 2015-16 and in three successive seasons between 2017-18 and 2019-20. His 2017-18 average of 16 per game remains his best across a single regular season.

The 30-year-old – who finished Chicago's first game of the new season with five rebounds – has the highest total rebound percentage in NBA history (24.85%).

While Drummond believes his statistics put him right up there with the very best, he also feels honoured to simply be mentioned alongside the likes of Chamberlain and Russell.

"To be associated with Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, it's a no-brainer not to feel good about yourself," he added.

"Those are the guys who paved the way for guys like myself; strong, brute-force players that do all the dirty work for teams. To be in the same breath as those guys is truly an honour."

A defiant Andre Drummond suggested the Chicago Bulls can utilise an underdog mentality as his side prepare to face a host of "super teams" in the new NBA season.

The Bulls have missed out on the NBA Playoffs in five of the last six seasons, finishing 40-42 in their last campaign and failing to make the eight-seed position in the Eastern Conference.

Chicago's task in the upcoming season will be no easier, although Drummond believes the Bulls can mix with the best as numerous teams assemble impressive rosters.

"I'm looking to beat every team that we play," the 30-year-old center told Stats Perform.

"That's my mindset, but there are definitely some circles on my calendar for teams that I'm looking forward to playing. Phoenix being one of them. Denver, Boston, the Bucks, the Spurs.

"I'm really looking forward to [facing] these teams that are being formed, like these super teams everybody's talking about.

"I love when the underdog team beats them."

While the Bulls once again failed to make the postseason, Drummond took some comfort in seeing his former teammates win the championship with the Denver Nuggets.

"The Nuggets winning almost feels like I won because it's kind of personal for me," he continued.

"Four of my former teammates play for that team – Ish Smith, Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown – and the fact those guys have done it [makes it feel personal because of] how much work we all put into our games.

"We played for Detroit together, and to see them win it almost felt like I got a piece of that championship to see that success for them."

The Nuggets are tipped as a potential repeat champion, which has happened on just three occasions since 2010, with the talent of Nikola Jokic a key to their success.

In 20 postseason games, Jokic accumulated 600 points, 269 rebounds and 190 assists. Never before in NBA history had a player reached those numbers over a 20-game span.

Jokic also became the first player in NBA history to have 25+ points and 15+ rebounds on 75 per cent shooting in a championship-clinching win after the Game 5 victory over the Miami Heat.

Those record-breaking numbers were no surprise to Drummond, who is preparing to face a new era of NBA stars.

"It is the new age of basketball now with guys like Jokic, Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and the new kid Victor [Wembanyama] who is taking the league by storm right now," he added.

"The game is changing and changes every year, something new happens and it becomes a wave, and everybody wants to follow that trend for that year until the next wave goes on.

"I always say history repeats itself at some point in time, the true center position is going to come back around, which it already kind of has due to everybody getting out-rebounded.

"I just think it's unique man, Jokic is a unique basketball player, the way he sees the floor, he thinks like a guard and plays like a guard, but is 6'11 and almost 300 pounds.

"He's just a really smart, a great decision maker, great basketball player overall and he's very, very fun to watch and play against."

Having started with the Detroit Pistons in 2012, Drummond believes the game has changed – and will continue to evolve – albeit perhaps not for the better.

He said: "I've been a part of a lot of good basketball, and to like where it is now, where it's a little bit softer, you can't touch anybody and everybody is free flowing.

"Everybody's there for the show instead of the game of basketball, I feel like it's a lot easier now because you can't touch anybody, so it makes the game a lot easier for both the offense and defense."

Thomas Muller has overtaken Bayern Munich team-mate Manuel Neuer as the player with the most Bundesliga wins in history.

Muller won his 323rd game in Germany's top flight as he helped Bayern beat Mainz 3-1 on Saturday.

That sets him clear of Neuer as the outright leader for Bundesliga victories.

Muller's contribution at Mewa Arena was limited as he replaced Kingsley Coman as an 88th-minute substitute, but with fellow Bayern legend Neuer still sidelined by injury, that brief cameo saw Muller edge ahead of his team-mate to claim the record for himself.

Goals from Coman and Harry Kane put Bayern 2-0 up within 16 minutes before Anthony Caci pulled one back for the winless hosts, but Leon Goretzka's second-half strike ensured Bayern ran out 3-1 winners.

The victory maintained Bayern's unbeaten start to the Bundesliga season, though Thomas Tuchel's men still trail surprise contenders Bayer Leverkusen and Stuttgart at the summit.

Muller's standout stats

Muller has played 449 Bundesliga matches, 127 more than any other Bayern player since he made his debut in August 2008.

The 34-year-old has created 884 chances for his team-mates in that time, with Franck Ribery (536) ranking a distant second for the Bavarian giants.

Of current Bayern players, Joshua Kimmich (505) is the closest to Muller, who has directly contributed to 306 Bundesliga goals, another team-high. Robert Lewandowski is second, with 273 goal contributions.

Lewandowski (238) is the only player to have scored more Bundesliga goals for Bayern than Muller (144) since the latter made his bow for the club, while the Germany international has provided 162 assists, almost 80 clear of second-best Ribery (85).

Muller has had 2,448 touches in the opposition box, over 500 more than any other Bayern team-mate since he made his Bundesliga debut, while he has also had the most duels (4,314), winning 1,904 of them.

 

His best goalscoring season came in 2015-16, when he netted 20 times in the Bundesliga and provided five assists.

However, it was in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons that Muller provided his most goal contributions in the Bundesliga, with 29 in each campaign.

Muller netted eight times in 2019-20, but supplied 21 assists. The following term, he teed up 18 goals and scored 11 himself.

The Chicago Bulls have "unfinished business" after missing out on the NBA Playoffs in five of the last six seasons, according to Andre Drummond.

The Bulls were expected to improve on a promising 2021-22 term this time last year, but they finished 40-42 for the regular season before missing out on the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Chicago were beaten by the Miami Heat in April's play-in tournament, bringing a premature end to an inconsistent campaign in which they never once posted a four-game winning streak.

Their woes were compounded by seeing guard Lonzo Ball sit out the entire season with a knee injury which has now required multiple surgeries. Having last taken to the court in January 2022, Ball will also miss the 2023-24 campaign after being forced to undergo a cartilage transplant.

Despite Ball's absence, Drummond believes Chicago can look forward to a more positive time of things this season, having kept a familiar core intact. 

"It's definitely been one of my better offseasons, I feel like I got a lot done," Drummond told Stats Perform. "I got some good insight into what is expected of me, so that's what I worked on this summer.

"With the Bulls I feel like we have some unfinished business, which is one of the reasons why I ended up coming back here to Chicago, picking up my player option. 

"We started off really good at the beginning of last year, and I feel like we let a lot of things slip, some due to injuries and some due to just not really having any real chemistry yet.

"Losing Lonzo, a lot of our decision-making has been spread out throughout our team, for guys that aren't used to doing it.

"I think with a year under our belts now, we know how each other play and we know each other a little bit better, we will be able to really build that chemistry."

In June, two-time All Star Drummond exercised his $3.36million option to remain with the Bulls, who open their season at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.

He will again be teaming up with Nikola Vucevic, who signed a three-year, $60m contract extension with Chicago in June, and Drummond is enjoying working with his fellow center.

"The relationship I have with Vuch is unique because he's somebody I've battled against for almost a decade, just playing against this guy year in, year out," Drummond said.

"Then being team-mates with him now and just seeing him on a day-to-day basis, I just really formed a new respect for him, watching how hard he works and how he prepares for each and every game. 

"Being here with him has been a lot of fun. We have two different games, which is why our games work together on the same team. 

"He's more of the outside shooter and I'm more of the brute force down low that gets all the rebounds and does all the dirty work, so our games clash very well."

Vucevic averaged 17.6 points, 11 rebounds and 3.2 assists while playing in all 82 games throughout 2022-23, also shooting 52 per cent from the field, his highest rate since 2014-15.

Harry Kane will still have the support of Tottenham fans despite his decision to leave the club, according to fellow Spurs favourite Jermain Defoe.

Kane signed for Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich for an estimated €117million (£100m) in the most recent transfer window, leaving North London having overtaken Jimmy Greaves as the club's all-time record goalscorer.

Kane scored 280 goals in 435 appearances in all competitions before ending his 19-year association with Spurs, and he has started life at Bayern in similarly prolific fashion, netting eight times in six Bundesliga outings while also getting off the mark in the Champions League.

Though Kane decided to leave in pursuit of the silverware that eluded him at Spurs, Defoe believes the club's fans will continue to back the England captain in his new surroundings.

Speaking to Stats Perform at the Legends of Football event, in aid of Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy, Defo said: "For Harry, it's amazing for him and his family. It's a new challenge.

"Everyone at Tottenham wants to wish him the best – we always knew he was going to do well anyway because he's a world-class player. He'll score goals anywhere. Nothing changes in terms of goals.

"We just want to wish him the best because Harry as a footballer is special but he's a special guy and he deserves everything he gets."

 

Kane the final piece of Bayern's puzzle?

Bayern have claimed 11 Bundesliga titles in a row, but the trophy they really want to lift is the Champions League having not made it past the quarter-final stage since last winning European football's elite competition in the 2019-20 campaign.

Kane has hit the ground running at Bayern, giving fans hope that he can be the man to lead them back to European glory.

The England international has scored eight goals in his first six Bundesliga appearances, with only Erling Haaland scoring more in his first six games in the league, while he has surpassed some of Bayern's greatest strikers in terms of their starts at the club.

His seven goals in his first five Bundesliga games for the club is more than Bayern legends such as Miroslav Klose and Robert Lewandowski managed, while his 10 goal involvements during those games is also the most in a player's first five Bundesliga appearances.

Kane is second behind only Serhou Guirassy (10) for Bundesliga goals this season, finding the net every 66 minutes on average while converting 34.78 per cent of his shots.

His three assists indicate he has also been a key facilitator for Bayern, while he is tied for fourth in the Bundesliga in terms of big chances created (four).

It is still early days, but Kane's excellent start suggests he could be the one to help Bayern back to the very top of European football.

Manchester City and Manchester United both lost on Saturday, breaking a decade-old wait for the two rivals to fall to a defeat in a 3pm kick-off.

It is rare for both United and City to play in the traditional Saturday slot, but that was the case as Erik ten Hag's side hosted Crystal Palace and Pep Guardiola's Premier League champions headed to Wolves.

Yet neither team will be in a rush to remember this particular afternoon in a hurry, as they both lost in a 3pm Saturday kick-off for the first time since September 28, 2013. 

United lost 1-0, with Joachim Andersen's goal making Roy Hodgson the first manager to go unbeaten in five successive Premier League trips to Old Trafford. City, meanwhile, went down 2-1 at Molineux, with Hwang Hee-chan getting the winner for Wolves.

No Rodri, big problems

City lost to Newcastle United in the EFL Cup on Wednesday and, without star midfielder Rodri – who was serving the second of a three-match suspension for the red card he received against Nottingham Forest – they found themselves on the end of a defeat again at Wolves.

Since Rodri made his Premier League debut in August 2019, City have lost five of 15 matches without the Spaniard in the competition (W9 D1); by contrast, they have lost just five of their last 67 league games when Rodri has featured (W53 D9).

Damian Lillard will be tasked with helping the Milwaukee Bucks return to the top of the NBA after his trade from the Portland Trail Blazers. 

Star guard Lillard signed for the Bucks on Wednesday in a three-way trade – which also included the Phoenix Suns – that saw Jrue Holiday, Deandre Ayton and Toumani Camara on the move too.

Lillard leaves Portland after 11 years with the Trail Blazers. He is a seven-time All-Star and enjoyed a career-best season in 2022-23, averaging 32.2 points and 7.3 assists, though he did sit out the final month of the season due to injury.

Now, the Bucks – the 2021 NBA Champions – will be hoping that Lillard can combine with two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to push them towards another title, following a disappointing first-round exit at the hands of the Miami Heat in last season's playoffs.

Fast Fact

Despite missing the last 10 games of the season, Lillard (1,866) was Portland's highest points scorer last term by over 500, with Anfernee Simons next best for the Trail Blazers with 1,306.

Lillard a difference-maker

"His character, competitiveness, talent and experience complement our group and gives us the best chance to win at the very highest level as we create new memories together," Bucks general manager Jon Horst said of Lillard.

So, does Lillard have what it takes to make the difference for the Bucks?

Lillard leaves Portland as a franchise great. He ranks first in team history in points and three-pointers and second in assists. Including the playoffs, he had 17 games with 50+ points for the Blazers. All other players in franchise history have only combined for seven 50-point games. He is a big-game player, and he should help ease the burden on Antetokounmpo.

Novak Djokovic is just one grand slam away from becoming the most decorated player in history and Feliciano Lopez believes "the numbers don't lie" when it comes to debating tennis' greatest.

Serbia's Djokovic equalled Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam triumphs after defeating Daniil Medvedev in straight sets at the US Open earlier in September.

That made the world number one, aged 36 years and 111 days at the time, the oldest winner of the men's singles title at the US Open.

It was also Djokovic's third major crown of 2023, winning a trio of grand slams in a calendar year for the fourth time in his career,

Davis Cup tournament director Lopez, who had previously hailed Djokovic for featuring at the "unique" competition, suggested no one in history compares with the 36-year-old.

Asked by Stats Perform if Djokovic was the GOAT – greatest of all time – Lopez said: "According to the numbers, yes. The numbers don't lie.

"If you look at the stats, Novak is the best. So, I mean, what can I say?

"I think the numbers are very clear, not only by the fact that he's won 24 slams, but also there are other numbers and other statistics that clearly show he's the best player who ever played the sport.

"According to the numbers, I cannot say anything different."

Djokovic triumphed at the Australian Open, French Open and US Open, only missing out on a clean sweep of the majors after losing the Wimbledon final to Carlos Alcaraz.

As for Djokovic's chances for more major success going forward, Lopez believes the sky is still the limit.

"It's very difficult to predict honestly, but as long as he's feeling physically strong I think it's clear that his will in the last three or four years is to keep winning grand slams," Lopez added.  

"If he is able to sustain his physical condition for the next two years, I can fairly say that he can win, I don't know, two, three or four, but it's very difficult to say one number because this year, for example, he could have won all four.

"He won in Australia, he won in Paris, he was very close to winning Wimbledon because of that second-set tie-break, and he just won the US Open.

"You ask me how many grand slams you think he will win in the future when he just won three of them in the same year!

"I don't know, maybe three or four more is fair to say, but it's very difficult to predict."

Carlos Carvalhal says he and his coaching staff "changed almost everything" about their approach to football after suffering relegation from the Premier League with Swansea City in 2018.

Carvalhal made a name for himself in the English game by leading Sheffield Wednesday to the Championship play-off final in 2016, where they were beaten by Hull City.

Wednesday were then beaten in the semi-finals after finishing fourth under Carvalhal in 2016-17. That remains their highest second-tier finish since 1990-91, when they were promoted in third.

However, Carvalhal left the Owls for Swansea City in December 2017, only winning eight of 25 games in south Wales and overseeing their relegation from the Premier League the following May.

Carvalhal has since enjoyed something of a renaissance with the likes of Rio Ave and Braga, before moving to Spain to keep Celta Vigo up with a final-day victory over Barcelona last season. 

The Portuguese coach is proud of his achievements since leaving English football, claiming his stint at Swansea provoked a change in his approach to the game.

"After England, we were at Sheffield Wednesday for two and half years and half a year at Swansea, then we stopped for one season," Carvalhal told Stats Perform at the Thinking Football Summit.

"We decided to stop and reflect on the things that we did and the things that we wanted to do in the future. We changed almost everything. In this moment, we saw football in a different way. 

"We are not basing it on the system [anymore], we are basing it on spaces and creating spaces. It's the way that we look at football, completely differently, like a chess player looking at the table.

"The results were fantastic, I can tell you. 

"We took a big risk to go to Rio Ave. Rio Ave is a medium club in Portugal. We were in the Premier League, and nobody from the Premier League goes to Rio Ave. But we decided to go there because it's a calm club, there were some good players, we could put our ideas on the pitch. 

"The reality was that we achieved Europa League [qualification]. Braga the same, we continued improving, in Celta Vigo we improved and we have stopped now to refresh a little again.

"I know €14 million was raised in Rio Ave with the players that we developed, which is very good for the club. Almost €100 million at Braga, and now in Celta Vigo with Gabri Veiga and Javi Galan probably about €50 million. So we are improving players.

"It's something that of course we are very proud of and something that we want to do in the future in the next challenge."

Carvalhal oversaw Rio Ave's best points return in their Primeira Liga history in 2019-20 (55 points), before leading Braga to their third – and most recent – Taca de Portugal one year later.

The 57-year-old has been out of work since leaving Celta in June, but he is ready to get back into the game and believes taking regular breaks is crucial to stay fresh.

"The gaps, I need to rest for my mental health, which I care about. Usually, you never see me have problems with other coaches, with referees and so on, because of these kinds of things.

"I decided [to move] because we did very well [at Braga]. We did the best the club has done in its history. In two seasons, we won the cup and we reached three finals. 

"We achieved the quarter-final of the Europa League, 17 players from the academy played in the first team. At Celta Vigo, we arrived at the club in a very difficult position. We finished in 13th. 

"There's a lot of pressure. So I spoke with my staff, I said I need to stop for three or four months and after, we go back to the market. So at this moment, we are on the market again. 

"We are not under pressure, it's not about money. We can't say that we don't ever go for the money because we never know what will happen tomorrow, but I would prefer to go because of passion and football. Let's see what happens."

Carlos Carvalhal has refused to rule out a move to the Saudi Pro League, also expressing pride for his role in Gabri Veiga's development after the young midfielder joined Al-Ahli.

Carvalhal has been out of work since leaving Celta Vigo in June, having kept the club in La Liga courtesy of a dramatic final-day win over Barcelona.

Prior to his stint in Spain, Carvalhal led Rio Ave to a club-record tally of 55 points in Portugal's Primeira Liga in 2019-20, before moving to Braga and winning the Taca de Portugal the following season. 

The Portuguese coach is no stranger to the Middle East, having managed UAE Pro League outfit Al Wahda in 2022, and he would not necessarily be against a move to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabian clubs have spent heavily in the transfer market this year, acquiring the likes of Karim Benzema and Neymar after the country's Public Investment Fund took control of four of the league's biggest clubs.

Though many have expressed concern about the financial power of Saudi clubs and the potential for the league to act as a "sportswashing" vehicle for the state, Carvalhal would be open to a move if presented with an attractive project. 

"We never know. We never know. I have said that if the project is structured, let's see," Carvalhal told Stats Perform at the Thinking Football Summit when asked if he would manage in the league.

"It has not been a long time. If the project is to buy good players, with good coaches and also to develop youth football, if there are these kinds of projects in the future, I believe they can do something important.

"I remember China six years ago or seven years ago, they bet with very good coaches, very good players and after one moment they decided, 'no, we don't want this anymore, we are spending too much money', and they finished. 

"It's over to everybody [in Saudi Arabia], let's see if this is consistent, if it will be here for 15 or 20 years. 

"It is very welcome what they are doing – if it's something circumstantial. It's something that we don't know [yet]. "

Carvalhal's Celta side was built largely around the talents of Veiga, who scored twice as they upset Barcelona to clinch survival back in June.

Veiga was linked with Serie A champions Napoli before opting to join Al-Ahli, who also signed Riyad Mahrez, Roberto Firmino, Edouard Mendy, Allan Saint-Maximin and Franck Kessie in the recent window.

Carvalhal is proud to have played a role in Veiga's development, highlighting the way his move brought much-needed funds to Celta.

"Gabri Veiga for Celta Vigo in the B team was like a striker, then we decided to put him in the second midfielder [role] because the way that he plays there, he can score goals and give assists," he said.

"It was a big challenge for him because he started as a striker and after with us, we played with two midfielders, and he was one of the midfielders. 

"He has improved to another level in this kind of position, with the goals and breaking lines. 

"Of course, when he finished the season and we saw that big clubs wanted him, he moved to Saudi Arabia as an option.

"Big money came into the club, of course. We are very proud and very satisfied about everything."

Celta have four points from five matches under Carvalhal's successor Rafael Benitez, who has become the first coach in the club's history to lose his first three home league games at the helm.

Lamine Yamal has burst onto the scene for Barcelona and former Spain midfielder Marcos Senna believes the teenager could emulate Lionel Messi's Blaugrana exploits.

Yamal has enjoyed a meteoric rise into professional football this season, becoming Barcelona's youngest starter in La Liga and the youngest player to assist in the competition in the 21st century.

The Blaugrana talent also marked his name as the youngest debutant and scorer for Spain in the 7-1 victory over Georgia this month, aged just 16 years and 57 days.

Only two players have scored for a European nation at a younger age (Sam Johnston in 1882 for Northern Ireland and Jozsef Horvath in 1906 for Hungary), and Senna believes Yamal will go to the top.

Senna, a former Villarreal midfielder and 28-cap Spain international, told Stats Perform at the Thinking Football Summit: "He has had a big impact.

"He is really young with big talent. Obviously, he has to be very well looked after, like cutting a diamond.

"It's important not to rush, so that in the future he can be one of the best, like Messi himself, who left Barcelona.

"He has already shown that he has a great future."

Senna had a fine career in Spain as a La Liga regular as well as being a part of La Roja's European Championship-winning side in 2008.

The 47-year-old played with a golden generation of Spanish footballers, and picked out three midfielders as the best he has lined up alongside.

"I think it would be really unfair to choose just one," he responded when asked about his former team-mates.

"There are many players I played with. I can name a few. For example, at Villarreal, Riquelme, was one of the great players I had the opportunity to play with.

"Santi Cazorla and others in the Spanish national team. Andres Iniesta was very important and created a legacy.

"They are historic players and special players. In my list, I can fit many more but I gave you the names of a few players from Villarreal and the national team."

Yet Messi – who Yamal has drawn comparisons to – remains Senna's greatest challenge.

Senna said: "A big part of my career was in Spain, at Villarreal. I was there for 11 years. During this period I met Barcelona's Pep Guardiola, and I didn't even have the chance to get a draw against them!

"It was a very complicated period when Messi came along. And let's say that was the biggest difficulty we had.

"Messi was a revolution of the century. For me, it was the biggest challenge as a player."

Novak Djokovic competing in the "unique" Davis Cup so soon after winning the US Open comes as an honour for tournament director Feliciano Lopez.

Serbia's Djokovic defeated Daniil Medvedev to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam triumphs after a straight-sets victory earlier in September.

At 36 years and 111 days, Djokovic became the oldest winner of the men's singles title at the US Open, as well as winning three majors in a year for the fourth time in his career.

That saw him surpass Roger Federer – who won three grand slams in a year on three occasions – but unlike the Swiss star, Djokovic has shown no signs of slowing down.

The 36-year-old was straight back into action just five days later, overcoming Alejandro Davidovich to help Serbia into the Davis Cup quarter-finals with victory over Spain.

Former Spanish tennis player and now tournament director Lopez hailed the endeavours of Djokovic for appearing in Valencia in such a short period after victory in the United States.

"As you can imagine having Novak here in Valencia this week is such an honour first of all," Lopez told Stats Perform.

"I personally appreciate a lot what he's done by coming here after winning the US Open because I know how tough it is to win a slam and then three or four days after put yourself in a position to compete again at the highest level.

"I don't think I can thank him enough that he's here ready to compete, ready to represent his country.

"I have to take my hat off and say thank you and wish him all the best for the rest of the week."

Djokovic has reiterated his commitment to helping Serbia to a second title in the men's Davis Cup, a tournament that Lopez believes is different to any other.

"I think the fact that you're representing your country is one of the things that I wanted to say [about what makes it special] because tennis is an individual sport where you normally play for yourself," he added.

"Whenever you have the chance to play for your team-mates, for your country and for a lot of people that you know, they put in a lot of efforts during that particular week to make everything happen.

"For me, it's the most special thing and unique."

Real Madrid star Jude Bellingham is defying expectations and can bring "joy and visibility" to LaLiga, according to former Spain midfielder Marcos Senna.

The England midfielder has enjoyed a blistering start to life in Madrid since joining from Borussia Dortmund in a deal worth an initial €103million, which could rise to €133.9m.

Bellingham is the top scorer in LaLiga with five goals, while his stoppage-time winner against Getafe last time out made him only the third Madrid player – after Pepillo and Cristiano Ronaldo – to net on each of his first four competitive appearances for the club.

The 20-year-old's exploits have caught the eye of ex-Villarreal captain Senna, who was part of the Spain squad that won the 2008 European Championships.

Speaking at the Thinking Football Summit, Senna told Stats Perform: "He is really impressing, and the numbers are there for everyone to see. He is doing more than could have been expected. 

"For LaLiga, it is very important that players like him and others who arrive in the league continue being very competitive and visible in the world. 

"He is a player that can bring [Spanish football] joy and visibility, and he is proving it already."

The 47-year-old also spoke about former club Villarreal, where he racked up over 350 appearances during his 11-year stay, helping them reach the Champions League semi-finals in the 2005-06 season.

But the Yellow Submarine have endured a poor start to 2023-24 with three defeats in four games culminating in the departure of Quique Setien, who was replaced by Pacheta.

The former Elche and Real Valladolid boss will take charge for the first time when Villarreal welcome fellow strugglers Almeria on Sunday, but Senna is confident the club's fortunes will soon improve.

"Villarreal didn't start the season the way we wanted and now there is a change of manager," he said. "But I believe we have a lot of time to turn the situation around, and we have a group of great players. 

"It's a great club that knows what it's doing. The goal this year is to finish as high as possible in the table, among the European places, and to be the Villarreal that everyone knows."

On Pacheta, Senna added: "It's a great opportunity for him, he is a great professional. This is one of the clubs with the most expression, and he will have the opportunity [to show his methods]. We hope he does a good job and can help us."

Vinicius Junior has enjoyed a "meteoric" rise at Real Madrid but Mauro Silva believes the Brazil winger could still get better with the world "yet to see the best" from him.

The Los Blancos forward soon became a fan favourite in Madrid after scoring three times in his first five games of the 2020-21 season, following his 2018 transfer from Flamengo as a 16-year-old.

While Vinicius only managed three goals and four assists in his next 44 games for Los Blancos, the 23-year-old helped Madrid to the LaLiga and Champions League double in the 2021-22 term.

Vinicius continued to shine in the Spanish capital last campaign, contributing to 42 goals across all competitions (23G, 19A) – only Mohamed Salah (46), Kylian Mbappe (50) and Erling Haaland (61) managed more in Europe's top five leagues.

That illustrious list of regular Ballon d'Or contenders – and Europe's top marksmen – only serves to purvey the quality of Vinicius, whose progression was hailed by Silva.

"What is clear is that the evolution and the progression of Vinicius Junior in recent times has been meteoric," Silva, a former Brazilian international midfielder, told Stats Perform at the Thinking Football Summit.

"When he arrived at Madrid he was questioned a lot, there were a lot of doubts and he was able to progress, he had a great evolution.

"He is a very young player, with a great future, it is clear. I still think we are yet to see the best of Vinicius Junior.

"He is a player who, at his age, has a lot to progress, to improve on and also perhaps [develop] as a striker, because in recent games he got used to being there but improving at scoring goals is fundamental."

Silva believes Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti has been key to Vinicius' development.

"You can see the confidence, you can also see Ancelotti's work when it comes to working on this footballer's self-esteem and confidence," the ex-Deportivo player added.

"But what is clear is that he has a great future and it is difficult right now to say how far he can go.

"I hope he can fight with Neymar to be among the great footballers of Brazil.

"In a team like Madrid and with the pressure they have and with the demands they have, that such a young player is capable of doing what Vinicius is doing makes us think that he could go very, very far."

Ancelotti's future at Madrid has come under regular speculation, with suggestions the Italian remains a target of the Brazilian national team – a move that Silva would welcome.

"It is clear that Ancelotti is one of the best coaches in the world. And when you are looking at a coach, I honestly don't think you have to take into account his passport or his nationality," Silva continued.

"If you think that the game model fits in Brazil, and in this case Ancelotti, the relationship he has with Brazilian soccer players, the ability to adapt that he has shown throughout his career, winning titles in all countries, well, it makes him as one of the best in the world at the moment, along with [Pep] Guardiola, with [Jurgen] Klopp.

"A coach of this level is capable of making a team like the Brazilian one, with the players they have, with the football culture that exists around them.

"Ancelotti [already] has a lot of relationships with Brazilian footballers, [he has had it] throughout his entire career, [all these things] makes us think that he could do a great job with Brazil."

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