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.

Former FIFA referee Duarte Gomes has leapt to the defence of VAR amid the furore surrounding Liverpool's Premier League defeat to Tottenham, calling the technology's introduction "the best thing to happen to football". 

The use of VAR is a hot topic in the English top flight again after Luis Diaz was incorrectly denied a goal in Liverpool's 2-1 loss to in-form Spurs.

Darren England – the VAR official on duty at the time – misunderstood the on-field call to chalk the goal off for offside, inadvertently clearing an incorrect decision.

Liverpool have reacted furiously to the incident, which played a part in their first defeat of the season, with boss Jurgen Klopp suggesting the game should be replayed on Wednesday.

However, Gomes – a retired Portuguese referee who officiated in FIFA and UEFA competitions between 2002 and 2016 – says the ability of those using the technology is the issue, not the technology itself.

Speaking to Stats Perform at the Thinking Football Summit, Gomes admitted officials were still adapting to the technology but said it had already righted "thousands" of incorrect decisions.

"I don't have the slightest doubt that it's the best thing that's happened to football and to referees for decades," Gomes said.

"I know that we have a big, long way to run yet. It's not perfect, far from that. People who work with VAR are also learning and they are focused always on their careers as a referee on the pitch. 

"The process of decision-making was completely different, and then you put them in a room with many screens and tell them to decide in a different way they have to adjust. 

"As with everybody, there are some people who have more competence than others. We are now on that trail to try to be there. 

"Nevertheless, in factual decisions, let's say, for example, offsides or with goal-line technology, I believe that around the world, thousands and thousands of goals have been saved or cancelled correctly after VAR. 

"So yes, it's good for football. It's a Ferrari, you just have to have the right driver to be there.

"I've made many mistakes with the human eye; penalties, decisions, yellow or red cards, things that I missed. VAR could help me a lot. I would have been a better referee if I had it."

Gomes also believes, however, that technology cannot become all-invasive in football, emphasising the need to preserve the emotional nature of the sport.   

"I'm a little concerned about AI in the future, of course also in refereeing matters. I believe it will have an important role," he added.

"Sitting here right now, I don't know if I will have a different way of thinking in 10 years. We are always adjusting, but I believe technology should always help until the point that humans decide.

"Human first, technology after, not the other way around because football is for people. It's played for people, with people, and refereed with people, and that's what gives the emotion.

"If you become very technological, it's very difficult to have an emotional sport and then it will lose many of its values, so yes, technology is always to help, not as a substitute for the referee."

Gomes also feels the rise of social media has had a major impact on the levels of abuse received by officials. In a high-profile incident from last season, Roma boss Jose Mourinho was given a four-match ban by UEFA for angrily confronting referee Anthony Taylor after his team lost the Europa League final.

"I believe it's getting worse because social media gives the right to everybody to criticise, especially the ones who didn't do it with a public voice before," he said.

"Football is a social phenomenon and it's unique because it can put you in a very emotional state, sometimes an irrational state, which is worse. 

"You cannot ask people to be reasonable when they have their emotions so strongly attached to their teams and their competitions. 

"Sometimes you have to let the balloon go down a little bit and then ask them for some tolerance again. Nobody wants to hear the explanation of law one or law two, [but] you have to do it slowly, you have to try and try."

While Alan Smith accepts Liverpool have every right to be hurt by the VAR error which cost them in Saturday's loss to Tottenham, he thinks Jurgen Klopp's team have no choice but to move on. 

PGMOL, the body responsible for match officials in English football, admitted a "significant human error" was committed when the decision to disallow Luis Diaz's first-half strike – which was flagged offside – was not overturned. 

The audio recording of the decision-making process surrounding the incident was made public on Tuesday, revealing VAR Darren England misunderstood the nature of the on-field decision when clearing the check.

Diaz's wrongly disallowed effort occurred when the game was goalless, with Liverpool down to 10 men following Curtis Jones' straight red card. 

Diogo Jota was also sent off in the second half before Joel Matip's stoppage-time own goal handed Spurs a dramatic 2-1 victory, maintaining their flying start to the Premier League season.

Liverpool subsequently said the "sporting integrity" of the game had been "undermined" in a statement, and boss Klopp made further headlines on Wednesday. 

Speaking at a press conference ahead of Liverpool's Europa League fixture against Union SG, Klopp called for the Spurs game to be replayed, labelling the situation "unprecedented".

While Arsenal great Smith has sympathy for Liverpool, he maintains the Reds have no option but to accept they were wronged. 

Speaking to Stats Perform at the Legends of Football event, in aid of Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy, Smith said: "I was amazed when they played on and the offside was upheld.

"It was a lack of communication, big time.

"I can't understand how that happened, but it's not great because it casts a shadow over the game, over VAR especially, and Liverpool are clearly very upset. 

"You can't blame them, but I think you've just got to suck it up and carry on really. It's done. It's done now."

The incident has sparked further debate about the impact and implementation of VAR, but former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein says the technology will become more effective as time goes on, calling for supporters to "stick with it".

"Well, it comes down to two words, human error, and that's going to happen," Dein said. "People have got to understand.

"I'm a great supporter of VAR. Before VAR came in, the referees were making one game-changing error every three games. That's been reduced dramatically.

"You'll see as the years go by. It's still in its infancy. It only came in the World Cup in Russia in 2018. That was when VAR was really introduced. 

"It's going to get better and more efficient as time goes on. I'm a great supporter. You've got to stick with it."

Arsenal Women's manager Jonas Eidevall was also speaking at the event, and he outlined his belief that semi-automatic offside technology – which is used in UEFA competitions – should be adopted by PGMOL.

"With VAR, as long as there is a human element to it, there can always be human errors," Eidevall said.

"If you do the semi-automatic offside technology, you don't really have a human element to that and you get less errors. So I think that's a good example. Goal-line technology is another one. 

"The referees are also going to get better, over time, at working with a system like VAR. That's also very obvious and they will also learn things every season. They want to get things right."

Meanwhile, VAR – and goal-line technology – was a hot topic across the opening weekend of the Women's Super League season, with officials failing to award Guro Reiten a goal despite the ball clearly crossing the line in Chelsea's 2-1 win over Tottenham.

Asked if he expected VAR to grace the league soon, Eidevall said: "Yes, I do. I think that's where the development is heading. I don't know if that's next season or the season after. 

"I think when we do, if we implement it, it has to be the full version. 

"What I don't want to see in the women's game is for them to implement a cheaper version of VAR with less camera angles. That makes it really difficult for the referees to see the situations."

Aitana Bonmati's similarities to Zinedine Zidane are part of the qualities that should win her the upcoming Ballon d'Or, according to former Portugal international Pauleta.

Bonmati's incredible form in the 2022-23 season helped Barcelona to a magnificent treble, recording a competition-leading 12 goal involvements as the Blaugrana claimed Champions League glory, before she also played a major role in Australia and New Zealand as her national team Spain won the Women's World Cup for the first time.

Bonmati was given the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player, and the midfielder is the favourite to collect more individual silverware in the near future having been named among the nominees to pick up the Ballon d'Or, the winner of which will be announced at a ceremony in Paris in late October.

Pauleta fully expects Bonmati to be named the 2022-23 season's best player, pointing to Zidane, the winner of the men's Ballon d'Or in 1998, as a star Bonmati shares traits with.

When asked who she thought should claim the trophy, Pauleta told Stats Perform at the Thinking Football Summit: "I say Aitana [Bonmati] because she had an incredible season with Barcelona and Spain.

"I played against her in the Champions League. I felt something about [Zinedine] Zidane in her game. She's aggressive but with the ball, she's so sweet. She always puts the ball where it needs to be.

"The game is better when she is playing. She has this quality that makes her play beautifully."

Among the other nominees competing with Bonmati is Mary Earps, the Manchester United and England goalkeeper who won the Golden Glove at the World Cup as the tournament's best shot-stopper, saving a penalty from Bonmati's Spain team-mate Jennifer Hermoso in the final.

Prior to her heroics with the Lionesses, Earps had helped United to a strong Women's Super League campaign as well as the club's first-ever FA Cup final.

Fellow goalkeeper Patricia Morais believes Earps should become the first Ballon d'or winner from their position, saying: "I think it will be the England goalkeeper [Earps], for sure. I have no doubt that she will win.

"She's a world-class goalkeeper. She deserves it because I like her style, how she plays football and I identify myself with her."

Feliciano Lopez has doubts whether Spain's golden generation led by Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz will ever be replicated.

With Nadal's glittering career nearing its end, the torch for Spanish tennis has been passed on to Alcaraz, who at just 20 has already won Wimbledon and the US Open.

The pair have now combined for over half of Spain's grand slam titles, and while Lopez feels his nation will have more success in the future, the former world number 12 has concerns whether it will match the levels that Nadal produced. 

"I believe that we are not going to experience the generation of Spanish tennis players that we lived through again," Lopez told Stats Perform. "People have to be clear about that.

"But that does not mean that there will not be other great tennis players that will represent the country very well in the coming years.

"I don't know Spanish tennis in the minor categories, beyond some names that have been told to me, but I know that there are kids of 16 or 17 who play well.

"In the end, I think Spanish tennis has been in a place that is very difficult to get back to, but I'm sure that apart from Carlitos, there will be other young players who will bring us joy during the next four, five or six years."

Alcaraz has reached at least the semi-finals in the last four grand slam tournaments he has played, winning two of them, and Lopez has faith that he can carry the torch for Spanish tennis once Nadal calls it a day.

"Spanish tennis is in the hands of Carlitos and when Rafa announces his retirement, the entire country will want him to win," Lopez added. 

"He has already won two grand slams and has been number one. It is a blessing to have a player like Carlos at a time when Rafa has a year left to retire."

Nadal's decorated career has coincided with a great era of Spanish sport, with the nation's male and female football teams both winning World Cup titles while they have also enjoyed success in the likes of basketball and motorsport.

Lopez takes pride in his country's sporting achievements, explaining: "A country like Spain that is not a world power, and sport does not have the aid that neighbouring countries invest, in the last 20 years, has not stopped winning titles in all disciplines: Tennis, football, and basketball."

Rachel Daly and Sam Kerr have both been named among the favourites to win the Golden Boot for the upcoming Women's Super League season.

Aston Villa's Daly is the current holder of the trophy having led the league with 22 goals last campaign, the joint-most recorded in a single season in competition history.

Kerr, meanwhile, has finished as the division's top scorer on two occasions, one of only two players to do so, winning the Golden Boot in back-to-back seasons in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 campaigns with Chelsea.

Ahead of the new season, which gets under way next weekend, a number of Women's Super League players and coaches pointed to Daly and Kerr as the frontrunners to lead the division in scoring.

When asked who will win the Golden Boot, Daly's Villa team-mate Mayumi Pacheco told Stats Perform: "I would love to say Rach Daly, of course.

"I think she had an unbelievable season last year and I think it's going to be tough to replicate, but I know she's got it in her."

Manchester City's Jess Park described Daly as an "unbelievable player" and lauded her "brilliant finishing attributes", while Brighton's Katie Robinson labelled the former West Ham loanee as a "prolific goalscorer".

Daly's manager, Carla Ward, added: "She’s one of a kind, she’s like a kid that just wants to play football. 

"It doesn't matter where you put her on the pitch, she’s happy. She wants to score goals, she’s hungry, she wants success, she wants to be better every day."

Kerr netted 12 goals in 21 outings last season as she helped Chelsea claim a third straight Women's Super League title.

Her Blues team-mate Johanna Rytting Kaneryd is backing her to reclaim the Golden Boot, telling Stats Perform: "For me, it's so easy to play with her. She's unreal in the box.

"Even though it does matter how you cross the ball, it feels like she's always there. She has unbelievable timing and ability to score."

Mary Fowler played with Kerr for Australia as they valiantly battled to the semi-finals of the Women's World Cup on home soil, and is excited to see how her compatriot fares.

"You just can't help but admire some of the things that she does," Fowler said.

"It's just like you wouldn't think of doing that yourself. I'm just excited to see what she does this season."

Rafael Nadal is unlikely to match Novak Djokovic's haul of 24 grand slam titles, but the Spaniard is capable of capping his remarkable career with one last Roland Garros triumph next year. 

That is the opinion of Feliciano Lopez, who hopes to see Nadal overcome his injury woes to enjoy a triumphant send-off in 2024.

Nadal's total of 22 grand slam titles is only bettered by Djokovic among male players, with the Serbian matching Margaret Court's overall record by winning the US Open.

Djokovic has won three of four grand slams in 2023, with injuries leading Nadal to miss the last three majors after he was eliminated from the Australian Open by Mackenzie McDonald in January.

Nadal confirmed earlier this year that 2024 would "probably" be his last year on the tour, and former world number nine Lopez is desperate to see his compatriot go out on a high.

Asked if Nadal could add to his 14 French Open titles – a single-slam record – next year, Lopez told Stats Perform: "With Rafa, you never know, because he has shown on other occasions that he was able to come back stronger, even when he had significant injuries. 

"It will depend a lot on how he feels physically, that will be key. I wouldn't be surprised to see him competing at a good level next year and I would love for him to say goodbye by winning Roland Garros. 

"It would be a dream for me and many people to see him lift that cup once again.

"It is very difficult for me to talk about Rafa, because he has changed the way we see sport in Spain. Before Rafa we had great athletes, but none transcended sport the way he has.

"Rafa's figure in Spanish sport and in the lives of Spanish people… there will be none like him. 

"There have been many joys that he has given us. He has given us examples in many situations outside of sports. There will be a before and after [Nadal] in Spanish sport."

While Nadal now looks highly unlikely to match the evergreen Djokovic for total grand slam titles, Lopez does not believe that will concern the 37-year-old.

"The issue of numbers and who is bigger than who fuels the media a lot," Lopez added. "At this moment in Rafa's life, I don't think he is thinking about that.

"With the numbers, we can see who won the most things, but that is not the question. I want him to return so he can compete again for one last year at the highest level. 

"Hopefully he wins one or two more grand slams, but right now, his goal is to recover and be physically competitive. 

"That is what Rafa needs and wants, because if he is not feeling well enough to compete, it will be very difficult for him to be able to play many tournaments next year." 

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."

The disgraced former president of the Spanish Football Federation [RFEF] Luis Rubiales was not worthy of representing his country, according to Sevilla vice president Jose Maria del Nido.

Rubiales was widely condemned for his behaviour as Spain celebrated their victory over England in last month's Women's World Cup final, having grabbed forward Jenni Hermoso before kissing her on the lips.

Hermoso repeatedly stated the kiss was not consensual and has since filed a criminal complaint against Rubiales, accusing him of sexual assault.

Though Rubiales initially refused to resign, the pressure eventually told as he announced his departure ahead of an interview with Piers Morgan, which aired last week.

Sevilla became one of the first clubs to demand Rubiales' resignation on August 25, and Del Nido believes the events have left a stain on the reputation of Spanish football. 

Speaking at the Thinking Football Summit, Del Nido told Stats Perform: "Instead of everyone talking about the success of being world champions, being the best in your sport at a global level, it's a complete failure that we should be talking about events that are totally unacceptable, of a person who should not represent the Spanish Football Federation. 

"Instead of paying attention to the damage that the attitude of the president of the federation has done, I would stay with the attitude that the Spanish people have had. 

"I think it is true that this hurts the reputation of Spain, but Spain is not Luis Rubiales. 

"Spain is everything we have manifested against the behaviour of Rubiales, everything we have done to support Jenni. 

"This type of conduct cannot be accepted under any concept, and even less if it is a person who occupies a status or a position of that magnitude. 

"He is not worthy of representing the Spanish Football Federation. Spain has spoken out against this event in a very good way. 

"I will finish as I started. What we have to do is congratulate the Spanish women's team for becoming World Cup champions, which is the only thing that should be discussed."

Despite the exits of Rubiales and World Cup-winning coach Jorge Vilda – who was sacked earlier this month having been the subject of player revolts – the storm surrounding the RFEF is far from over.

A group of 81 Spanish players announced their intention to boycott international duty and 39 said they would continue to strike for further changes on Friday, with Hermoso claiming "nothing has changed" at the governing body on social media.

However, six of the players who agreed to strike reported at Spain's training camp on Tuesday, with goalkeeper Misa Rodriguez telling reporters she was not glad to join up with the squad as she arrived. 

With the relationship between women's rights and Spanish football under the microscope, Getafe completed the controversial loan signing of Manchester United's Mason Greenwood this month.

Greenwood was arrested and charged with attempted rape, assault and controlling and coercive behaviour last year, with the charges dropped in February after the withdrawal of key witnesses.

While Del Nido was not prepared to comment on Getafe's decision to sign Greenwood, he said Sevilla never considered a move for the forward.

"I read about it in the press and it was never among the options that the sporting director of Sevilla [Victor Orta] managed," Del Nido asserted.

"With it not being within the options of the sporting director of Sevilla, I don't dare to speak about a signing for another club, Getafe, for whom we have a lot of respect. 

"They have made some signings but we have never valued the option of that footballer at a sporting level, so I have nothing to say about that."

Greenwood made his Getafe debut as a substitute on Sunday as they beat Osasuna 3-2 in LaLiga.

Sevilla vice president Jose Maria del Nido has hailed the club's "prodigal son" Sergio Ramos for rejecting a huge offer from Saudi Arabia in order to return to his boyhood team. 

Ramos came through Sevilla's youth system before making his La Liga debut for Los Nervionenses as a 17-year-old in 2004. 

The defender made 39 league appearances for Sevilla before joining Real Madrid in a controversial €27 million move in 2005, going on to win five league titles and four Champions Leagues with Los Blancos. 

After struggling with injuries during a two-year stint in Ligue 1 with Paris-Saint Germain, Ramos was heavily linked with a move to Al-Ittihad, where he could have been reunited with former Madrid team-mate Karim Benzema.

Despite reportedly being offered around €19m per year to join the Saudi champions, Ramos made an emotional return to Sevilla earlier this month, and Del Nido says the club will not forget the sacrifice he made.

Speaking at the Thinking Football Summit, Del Nido told Stats Perform: "We are very happy with Sergio's return.

"First and foremost, we have a great central defender that will help us achieve the objectives we have set for this season. 

"He is a player who was raised in Utrera's youth academy, in Sevilla's youth academy, and he is a player who comes back home as a prodigal son. 

"He is a player with a lot of media attention but the most important thing is the individual and team titles he has won.

"He is a player who has a worldwide impact. We are really happy for him to end as he started. We've signed a great football player and a player that is a Sevilla supporter."

Asked about Ramos rejecting a move to Saudi Arabia, Del Nino added: "Words are really beautiful and really simple to say, but in life, in the end, things are demonstrated with facts. 

"The fact that Sergio has given up a lot of money to play for Sevilla shows the commitment he has, the desire he has, as he said, to hear the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan chant his name. 

"He has shown it with a lot of effort. He waited until we had the money to bring him to the club, then he gave up two economic offers that multiplied the amount he was going to be paid at Sevilla. 

"He has shown his commitment to the club and it is another reason for satisfaction. As we have said, we can only thank him for the effort he has made, among other things, at an economic level."

Ramos made his second Sevilla debut against Las Palmas on Sunday, 18 years and 20 days after playing his last league game for the club against Racing Santander in August 2005.

While Del Nido was delighted to see Ramos reject Al-Ittihad's advances, he believes the financial might of Saudi Pro League sides offers an opportunity for clubs like Sevilla to generate funds.

"We have seen a strong eruption of the Arab market," he said. "They say that clubs from this league invested €600m to €700m. One of the players was our goalkeeper, Yassine Bounou [who joined Al-Hilal].

"We are a club that sells to grow, so the fact there is another league that invests in good footballers is good for us. 

"We have sold good players to Madrid, Barcelona, and clubs of different leagues with a higher economic magnitude than Sevilla and we have continued to compete.

"Now the key is to see if this league is prolonged in time and continues to inject money in Europe. 

"It is true that a player who has earned x millions of euros there, more than what we can pay… that can cause you to not access these players. 

"But the policy we have is to sell to grow. The more leagues invest in good footballers, and if they are from Sevilla, the better for us."

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."

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