Aston Villa are the favourites for Champions League football next year despite a disappointing turn in their form, says David James.

With Tottenham having lost heavily at Fulham on Saturday, Villa had the chance to move five points clear of Ange Postecoglou's team and consolidate their place in the top four when they faced West Ham on Sunday.

However, they ultimately had to settle for a point at London Stadium, thanks to Nicolo Zaniolo's equaliser, though West Ham had a late winner disallowed by VAR.

It left Villa, who have been unable to maintain the level of performances they showed at the end of 2023, still in control of their destiny, sitting three points above Tottenham, in fifth, albeit Spurs have a game in hand.

With five teams potentially set for a Champions League place this season, former Villa goalkeeper James fancies his old club’s chances of finishing ahead of Spurs and sixth-placed Manchester United.

James told Stats Perform: "I think Villa are the favourites, it's easy to say.

"Unai Emery has played for teams that are used to not winning all the time even if he's had success in cups and he's got a group of players who are confident, despite the results today, to get wins.

"I can't really see the top four changing. It'd be nice if there is a challenge, but Villa are my old team, so I actually want them to finish third."

Emery's side have been the surprise package this term, and despite some onlookers assuming they would fall away due to inexperience and their Europa Conference League duties still ongoing, they have remained firmly in top-four contention.

However, Villa have a difficult run-in, with Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool still to play, though Tottenham also have to face those four opponents as well.

Despite backing his old side, James conceded Villa have their flaws, and after being unbeaten at Villa Park until their loss to Newcastle United in January, they have now gone on to lose there on two more occasions, against United and Spurs.

James said: "We saw Tottenham batter Villa strangely after that long record that Villa broke at home, it felt like it was only going to be the away form that would let them down.

"It's reversed now that it's the home form that's letting them down and not the away form. They're still ahead of Tottenham points-wise."

Emery has rejuvenated Villa since he replaced Steven Gerrard at the helm, and James thinks the former Arsenal boss belongs in elite company.

James said: "I've heard some wonderful stories about him as well about his videos and stuff like that but if you can get the players to buy into what you're doing and by getting them the results they will try everything that you ask them to try then, you're on for a winner.

"I think Unai's got that at the moment. The problem is, and I think this is indicative of the Premier League at the moment and why Arsenal might be refreshing their challenging City and Liverpool.

"These two clubs here today have been ruling the Premier League for five, six years now. Emery's success would always be qualifying for the Champions League at the moment as opposed to challenging for the Premier League.

"So, yes, it's building blocks, but they're all going in the right direction. I just think that you've got a very capable manager with a capable group of players and they are signed to see the dividends of that."

Aaron Rodgers' impact upon the New York Jets transcends his contribution on the field, says team-mate Quincy Williams, who has lauded the quarterback's "huge" influence.

The Jets are still awaiting an on-field impact from Rodgers, who was expected to lead the team into title contention after arriving from the Green Bay Packers but saw his 2023 season end in Week 1. 

Rodgers, a 10-time Pro Bowler, tore his Achilles tendon on just his fourth snap in Jets colours, finishing his only game of 2023 0-for-1 passing in a 22-16 defeat to the Buffalo Bills.  

Replacement QB Zach Wilson struggled through the remainder of the season as the Jets finished 7-10, but Williams says Rodgers still exerted a big influence in the dressing room.

"It's been a huge impact," Williams said of his veteran team-mate. "Let's be honest, he wanted those gold jacket guys soon, that's the most important thing.

"Anything he tells you, [you take] as constructive criticism. You write it down thinking about it because he'll come up to you in the middle of practice like: 'Hey this is what I'm looking at, what do you think about this?' 

"He's one of those open people where you can also go to him and say, 'I've got a question about the game plan', even if it's offense or defense.

"The most important thing is he advises about being a pro off the field, nutrition wise, on training and things like mental health, things you want to focus on so you can be better during the season."

Though Rodgers was unable to make an impact for the Jets on the field, Williams left his own mark and was rewarded with the first All-Pro selection of his career. 

That achievement capped a remarkable turnaround for the linebacker, who put his injury struggles behind him to appear in all 17 Jets games in 2023.

"I would describe it as a rollercoaster," Williams said. "The change from this year to last year was just me buying in.

"I came from a small school at Murray State and got drafted third round, then I ran into a lot of injuries in Jacksonville.

"I got cut from the Jaguars but got a great opportunity from the Jets to come and play with them, and also to play with my brother [Quinnen Williams].

"The season didn't go [to plan] but, most importantly, we faced the adversity. Everyone was on the same page.

"I wouldn't change the rollercoaster I was on because of the people I was with; those are my team-mates, my brother, and also my coaching staff."

This International Women's Day, the New York Jets and the Chicago Bears announced the expansion of the Jets and Bears NFL Girls Flag League, the first UK all-girls competition of its kind. To learn more about the initiative, please visit and

Harry Kane's efforts for Bayern Munich will be worthy of the Ballon d'Or should the England captain break the Bundesliga goalscoring record, so says David James.

A week on from becoming the first player to score four hat-tricks in a debut Bundesliga season, Kane netted his 31st league goal of the campaign in Bayern's 5-2 win over Darmstadt on Saturday, seeing him surpass Uwe Seeler (from 1963-64) for the most goals in his first term in Germany's top tier.

Kane has now netted 37 goals in 35 appearances across all competitions for Bayern since his switch from Tottenham, outperforming his expected goals (xG) of 30.19.

Of players in Europe's big five leagues, only Kylian Mbappe has scored more goals (38) than Kane, whose tally of 47 goal contributions leads the way across the continent.

With eight league games remaining, Kane is well on course to better Robert Lewandowski's Bundesliga record of 41 goals, which was set during Bayern's all-conquering 2020-21 campaign, and James feels that is evidence enough of the former Spurs star's world-class ability.

"The fact that he could break the Bundesliga record for goals this year, I think, is a testament to how good Harry Kane is," he told Stats Perform.

"He could be the man who scored the most goals for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, which would be better than Lewandowski, who people think should have won a Ballon d'Or for the amount of goals he scored in the Bundesliga."

Kane's form this season has been one of the few positives for Bayern, as for the first time since Jurgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund denied them the Bundesliga in 2012, they look set to finish second, 10 points behind Xabi Alonso's high-flying Bayer Leverkusen.

James, though, feels there is still more to come from Kane, who will go up against his old rivals Arsenal in the Champions League quarter-finals.

"I think he's doing a marvellous job," James added.

"I think he understands completely how to play football, and that might sound a bit funny, but he knows what to do to be better."

There was some concern for Kane, however, who sustained an ankle injury in Saturday's win over Darmstadt, though the 30-year-old will join up with the England squad this week.

Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) executive director Ahmad Nassar believes tennis should do more to protect players after Simona Halep was allowed to return to tennis.

Halep was suspended in October 2022 after failing two drug tests following the US Open. The former world number one was initially banned for four years, but a ruling earlier in March by the Court of Arbitration for Sport slashed her suspension to nine months.

The reduced ban means Halep can immediately return to tennis, and the two-time grand-slam winner is set to make her return at the upcoming Miami Open.

When asked whether players in situations like Halep's should receive help to gain back what she has lost during her time away, Nassar told Stats Perform: "Should there be? Absolutely. Will there be? Probably not. For tennis, this is a much broader issue in terms of governance. 

"Think about Simona’s case. Where did this happen, at the US Open? And so you give the Tour the cover to say 'well, it wasn't actually one of our events'. It was, and we didn't admit it. There has to be an answer.

"The net effect is the player gets doubly penalised."

Now 32, Halep will be a wildcard at the Miami Open.

In Nassar's view, that is an opportunity that not every player in a similar situation would be fortuitous enough to receive.

"I don't want to use the word lucky," Nassar explained. "But Simona is unique in the sense that she's already gotten, 24 hours later, a wildcard to Miami, a WTA 1000 event.

"Ninety-nine per cent of players who go through anything like this will not get that. What do they have to do? Well, they have to go play maybe universal tennis events, and then WTA 125s and get back into it. That could take a year, easily.

"Getting back, building your ranking up, getting your points up, getting the money to be able to go back out there. It becomes really overly punitive at that point."

Nassar is hopeful that Halep can return to her top form, which saw her claim French Open and Wimbledon triumphs in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

He added: "What I'll say is this. Athletes who have been unfairly treated often use that as fuel and motivation when they're back. And so I would not be surprised in the least if that was the case.

"But at the same time, I don't want to make light of what Simona and other athletes who go through this type of nightmare have to endure. We definitely wish her all the best."

Nassar also called out some in tennis for their lack of initial support for Halep, continuing: "It's been interesting to see that decision come out.

"It's like everybody is saying 'welcome back' with open arms. And I have to ask myself, where were these people for 17 months?

"The process was not okay. And it's still not okay."

Simona Halep may have celebrated the reduction of an initial four-year ban but tennis must be wary of players "losing faith in the system" after her alleged doping-related punishment.

That was the thoughts of Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) representative Ahmad Nassar after supporting Halep through the appeal process after she was banned by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) for "intentional" doping offences.

The two-time grand slam champion remained staunch in her defence of innocence and eventually succeeded earlier this week as the ban that was initially set to last until 2026 was reduced to a nine-month suspension, which was backdated and allowed her straight back on the court.

"That's the shame of this – there are two impacts to this and they're at different ends of the spectrum," Nassar told Stats Perform.

"One is losing faith in the system and, the other is being pretty darn scared of the system.

"I never thought this could happen to even a former number one grand slam champion, or especially, a lower-ranked player that just gets completely rolled over.

"It really can happen to anyone. If we're making people lose faith in it, and simultaneously petrified of it – that's not a good system that is working."

Halep will return at the Hard Rock Stadium in Florida, where the action starts on March 17, as the former world number one marks a comeback tournament with her record – and reputation – reinstated.

Questions remain for Nassar, though, as repeated calls persist for improvements in the regulatory system with reform needed in his eyes.

"This is the end of Simona's nightmare chapter dealing with this, and may she never have any dealing with this again," he continued.

"But we just know that the process out there right now is a ticking time bomb. Other players are still navigating it, there are players to come who will sadly have to navigate it.

"The goal of the programme is a clean sport, and a fair score for first and foremost, the players.

"So how do we how do we strike that balance? Within the current system, there is a lot of room for improvement.

"How do we ease that burden without losing sight of the first goal, which is nobody wants to play in a clean sport more than the players themselves? They are most affected if somebody is cheating."

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola's honesty has been hugely refreshing for the Premier League, so says David James.

In what is set to be the final Premier League meeting between the great managerial rivals, Liverpool and Manchester City served up a thrilling 1-1 draw at Anfield on Sunday.

For the second time in the last three seasons, Liverpool and City have drawn both of their meetings in a Premier League campaign (2021-22 and 2023-24). Four of the last six meetings between the two in the top flight have ended level, as many as in the previous 17 combined (four).

Guardiola, meanwhile, is the manager to have beaten Klopp the most in the German's career, with 10 wins. But it is the same the other way around, with Klopp having overcome Guardiola's sides on 11 occasions.

With Klopp leaving Liverpool at the end of the season, the only way he and Guardiola can go head-to-head again in English football will be if the Reds and City were to meet in the FA Cup, should they progress beyond their respective quarter-final ties, and former England goalkeeper James believes the honesty that both men have provided during their stints in the top tier has been hugely impressive.

"There's one thing about these two and I think it's their honesty," he told Stats Perform.

"Right from the get go when Pep turned up [in 2016], the way that he talked about his football. I think you can see in how his teams are playing games.

"After matches, win, lose or draw, he would tell people how he thought the performance went. I think that was refreshing because a lot of managers still avoid the hard questions when people talk about performances, whether it was good or bad.

"Pep honestly responded. I think with Jurgen, [it's] the honesty just in general. In terms of him announcing that he's going to step down as Liverpool manager. I think that the way he comes over, you just believe everything he says.

"That is not to suggest he isn't telling the truth, but that's what I love about it. I think what they've done is move the benchmark for other managers coming in.

"In regards to a rivalry, I think they love each other and hate each other at the same time. They're so good and they've kept this league so honest, it's been amazing."

Asked for his thoughts on how Liverpool go about replacing Klopp, who has been in post since 2015, James added: "Obviously with Jurgen having to be replaced for next season, it'll be interesting what type of manager Liverpool get.

"Because football-wise you can get a manager that has more influence on the pitch that Jurgen has but off the field it will be difficult to replace him."

Liverpool have been heavily linked with Xabi Alonso, though Bayern Munich are also in the hunt for the Bayer Leverkusen coach.

David James still thinks Liverpool or Manchester City will win the Premier League title, despite Sunday's draw between the pair leaving Arsenal at the summit.

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola's final Premier League meeting ended in a frantic 1-1 draw at Anfield, with Arsenal, who beat Brentford 2-1 on Saturday, remaining clear of the Reds on goal difference at the top of the table.

Liverpool accumulated 2.7 expected goals (xG) to City's 1.56, but shared the spoils as Alexis Mac Allister's 50th-minute penalty cancelled out John Stones' inventive set-piece opener.

Though Mikel Arteta's Gunners sit narrowly ahead of Liverpool and a point clear of third-placed City with 10 league games remaining, James believes Sunday's draw does not favour Arsenal in the title race.

"I think this is the worst result for Arsenal, even though they ended the weekend top of the table," former City and Liverpool goalkeeper James told Stats Perform.

"If Arsenal slip up, both City and Liverpool are in exactly the right place to take advantage. Whereas, had one team won, then [Arsenal] would only essentially be looking at one team in a preferential position, even if they were in second place.

"I still see this as a Liverpool and Man City race. I think Arsenal, of course, are there numerically, but I think when it comes to the crunch, these two are the best teams in the country, and one of these will be crowned Premier League champions."

Liverpool had 19 shots on Sunday, their most in a Premier League clash against City, with 12 of those coming in the second half – a record high Guardiola's side have faced after half-time in a league match since May 2021 (12 against Brighton).

Though Liverpool may lament Luis Diaz missing a gilt-edged chance in the second period, as well as a contentious decision right at the end when Mac Allister was caught by Jeremy Doku inside City's area, James insists the Reds should take encouragement from their showing against last season's treble winners.

"[Liverpool] could have beaten the best team in the world with the better chances in the game," the 53-cap England international continued.

"That would give me confidence in the short term, of not getting the points, but that you can play the best team in the world and should beat them, that's a nice feeling."

James lauded "a fantastic game of football" but suggested an inexperienced and injury-hit Liverpool may have lacked a clinical edge, owing to their young side.

Indeed, with Conor Bradley (20), Harvey Elliott (20) and Jarell Quansah (21) all starting, it was the first time Liverpool had named three players aged 21 or under in a Premier League starting XI against City since March 2015, when Raheem Sterling, Emre Can and Lazar Markovic all featured.

James, who played 214 times for the Reds, added: "I don't want to say that nobody is allowed to miss chances…

"But the crucial moments in the game, I think in the first half in particular, Liverpool were getting into very good positions and were not making what I thought were the right decisions at the right time.

"[That was] either the correct pass or the shot, it was a touch that allowed City to get back into the box. Things like this, I think are understandable.

"Bradley, who has been fantastic since he came into the side, was culpable a couple of times, I think that might be just experience.

"He's playing in his biggest match ever, in front of the Kop, and there was a moment where you think just put your foot through it. You're playing against a fantastic team and there are a lot of influences on it."

Whether a point dropped for Liverpool or one gained for City, James believes both sides will look back on the showdown as decisive come the end of the campaign.

He concluded: "Ultimately though, it won't be until the end of the season. If the league is decided or lost by a point by either of these teams, they'll look at if they could have got that extra two points and won the title."

Simona Halep's four-year ban being overturned comes as a "relief", though the decision to reinstate her WTA Tour position may be "bittersweet" due to time already missed on the court.

That was the message from Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) representative Ahmad Nassar, who discussed the damage that the initial decision could have on Halep's career.

The two-time grand slam champion was handed a long ban by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) for "intentional" doping offences.

Halep, who won the 2018 French Open and Wimbledon in 2019, repeatedly defended her innocence.

The 32-year-old's appeal was eventually successful earlier this week as the ban that was initially set to last until 2026 was reduced to a nine-month suspension, which was backdated, meaning Halep can return to the court immediately.

"Bittersweet is a good word," Nassar told Stats Perform after the Court of Arbitration for Sport's (CAS) ruling.

"Relief is another word I would use. It's just a relief after a year and a half. The ups and downs of waiting, and then having this initial decision with the four-year ban, and the resulting 116-page decision.

"I worked in US federal court for a year after law school and a lot of times people write decisions to try to bulletproof it on appeal. Other times, it's kind of a pro forma thing, because there's zero chance that's going to get overturned on appeal.

"So when I saw that my first reaction was this is intended to try to bulletproof, throw the proverbial book at her and her team.

"So that on appeal, exactly what ended up happening didn't happen. That's such a sign of how broken the system is, because that shouldn't really be the motivation, the motivation should be what's the right answer?

"I represent all the players, not just Simona. And we go out of our way to say, all the players deserve a clean sport, first and foremost.

"Nobody's more affected by potential doping, especially in tennis, where it's one on one or two on two, than the players. 

"It's a win in a fairly technical sense. They sought to take it from four to six years, which to me is just a jaw-dropper. If you think about that, neither side was happy with the four-year ban, which makes it all the more remarkable that CAS ruled the way they did."

Halep, the former world number one, will make her return at the Hard Rock Stadium in Florida, where action starts on March 17.

Whether she will be able to get back into her stride after a prolonged absence remains to be seen, a sticking point for Nassar.

He added: "Nobody won because you don't get to go back in time. Even if you went back to exactly the day after the nine-month suspension ended, which would have been last summer and let her resume play.

"Still, she went through nine months of assuming the worst, reading the worst, seeing the worst, hearing the worst. It's not only time but also opportunity, it's reputation.

"You take years and years and a whole career, decades to build up your name and you can lose it and your credibility and trust. You can lose it in an instant, and it's hard from that standpoint.

"That really frustrates me. This is not one of those things where you say, 'It's just professional sports, it comes with the territory', because when I look at other sports, this same dynamic does not exist.

"We don't want to call this a real win. She's a former number one, a major champion, with resources and wherewithal and ability, and later in her career, to be able to push back against this real machine that was mobilised against her.

"Most players, 99 per cent of them do not have that and so they take it on the chin, and either retire, or just take the four years and hope that they cut some terrible deal, if that's even in the offing, to settle and move on with their lives.

"That's why the players created the PTPA. It just highlights a huge gap in the system that is going to take years to fill, even on the anti-doping side. It's going to take years.

"I think there's some incremental reforms that hopefully can occur because of this situation that are better for everybody, not just the players. But it's going to be a long-term process."

Carlos Alcaraz must ignore the comparisons to fellow Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal otherwise it will "hinder his career".

That was the message from former Dutch player Richard Krajicek, who won the Wimbledon men's singles title back in 1996.

Alcaraz triumphed at Wimbledon last year as well, his second major title after winning the US Open in 2022.

Though veteran Nadal has some 22 grand slam titles to his name, two behind the ever-reliant and ruthless Novak Djokovic, comparisons continue to be drawn between the two Spaniards.

"If he starts to think about it or live up to it or try to beat it, then it will hinder his career," Krajicek said of the similarities between Nadal and Alcaraz.

"His name is Carlos Alcaraz, he said it himself and he's not the new Nadal. Nadal is a legend and he's going to do what he has to do.

"I think by winning two grand slams, being number one, I don't think he feels any pressure or like, 'I have to do this or this'. He's improved already so much.

"I don't think he has too much to prove and he's just playing for the love of the game and he's going to win many more Grand Slams and he will be number one for many weeks also."

An athletic, bustling right-hander Alcaraz has the pure power, mixed with delicate control, to trouble major-title contenders for the next decade or so.

However, Krajicek says it is Alcaraz's passion for the sport that is most impressive.

"I like everything about this game. I mean, he's physically good, he's fast, I love his mentality on the court. Also like Rafa, very humble person, and he can do it all," he added.

"He can play, he plays from the base, and he's got a big forehand, he's got a very good touch on the drop shot. He can volley. Yeah, and he really loves the game.

"When he played the US Open and it was a really important point, and they were playing for number one in the world. It was one set all, Alcaraz loses the point, but the point was unbelievable, and Alcaraz smiled to his box 'Wow, I just played a great point and I love this game'.

"So for me, then I became a fan. I'm like, 'Wow, you really love this game'. So that's so great to see."

Bayern Munich forward Mathys Tel said scoring his first Champions League goal was "wild", as he reflected on an "incredible and unforgettable moment".

The 18-year-old joined the Bundesliga giants from Rennes in July 2022, after making just 10 competitive appearances for the French club's first team, and quickly wrote his name into Bayern's history books.

He became their youngest-ever goalscorer when he netted in a 5-0 win over Viktoria Cologne in the DFB-Pokal at the age of 17 years and 126 days.

Tel followed that up by marking his Bundesliga debut with a goal in a 2-2 draw with Stuttgart less than two weeks later, claiming the record of Bayern's youngest scorer in the competition.

This season, he has continued the theme of getting big goals to commemorate special occasions, and the youngster reflected on his memorable impact in the Champions League by scoring what turned out to be the winner in a thrilling 4-3 victory over Manchester United in Bayern's group-stage opener.

Tel told FedEx's Outside the Box: "The coach called me over, 'Mathys, it's time for you to go on'.

"I'm in my own bubble, I focus on getting out onto the pitch. I get ready to make a difference for my team.

"The game against Manchester United, it was quite a different atmosphere, because it's the biggest competition, the best players in the world, the biggest teams in the world. The mental preparation was really important for me.

"I came on as a left winger and then the game started. Everything went so fast. That's when my head exploded. The stadium went wild. Everybody went wild. It was an incredible and unforgettable moment."

That goal is one of seven that Tel has scored this season, already beating his tally of six from his debut campaign, and his style has drawn comparisons to fellow Frenchman, Kylian Mbappe.

However, Tel's focus is on his own game, and not comparisons to others.

"I've achieved quite a lot but today, I want more, I want to keep going. I still have a lot to learn. So, I come onto the pitch with a great deal of desire and ambition," said Tel.

"What I'm working on in training is my movement through different zones to be able to score goals. I have my own way of playing. I run fast, I try to create chances, I try to score a lot."

After a season and a half in Munich, in which he won the Bundesliga last term, Tel has already cemented himself into the team, and chosen to extend his time there, signing a new long-term contract that will see him stay at the club until 2029.

Tel added: "The FC Bayern transfer was an incredible time for me. My hard work had paid off.

"This is what makes me such an ambitious player today. I was immediately welcomed like a new member of the family. I wasn't sidelined.

"All the players came to me; they helped me and included me straight away. They would tell me: 'If you need anything, you can come find me'".


Mathys Tel featured in episode one of FedEx's 'Outside the Box' content series. To watch the full episode, please visit:

Rafael Nadal's French Open haul is the only record in sport that will never be broken, according to Richard Krajicek.

And the former Wimbledon champion believes Nadal could yet add a 15th Roland Garros title in what is set to be his final year on the circuit.

Indeed, Krajicek believes Nadal's great rival Novak Djokovic would even be hoping to see the Spaniard succeed again in Paris.

While Djokovic's 24 singles grand slam triumphs edge out Nadal's 22, his performances at the clay-court major are unmatched.

Nadal has 14 French Open titles, losing only three times in 115 matches at the event.

Although he did not compete last year, as Djokovic earned his third Roland Garros championship, a winning return in 2024 would provide a fitting conclusion to a legendary career.

"It would be great for Nadal to go for the clay and win one more French Open," Krajicek told Stats Perform.

"I think every record in sports or in tennis can and will probably be broken. I'm pretty sure the only one that will never be broken is the 14 French Open titles from Rafael Nadal. I don't see how somebody can win 14 titles."

Of the possibility of one last win for Nadal, Krajicek added: "It would be just incredible.

"I think everybody in tennis, probably including his competition, Djokovic or [Carlos] Alcaraz, would love for Rafa to win one more French Open."

That is a realistic aim, according to Krajicek, although he does not see Nadal competing for the top prize at either Wimbledon or the US Open.

"For me, [the French Open] is the only one. If he wins any grand slam, it's that one," the 1996 All England Club winner said. "I don't think he'll ever win Wimbledon again, also not the US Open.

"I don't know how good his body is, but the feeling and how much he played or how little he played... I think, for me, only the French Open. Roland Garros is the only one he can win."

Asked for his reflections on Nadal's legacy, Krajicek replied: "I think his legacy will be of a great champion, number two in grand slams, so one of the greatest ever, unbelievable.

"A great person, humble person, and probably the biggest fighter we've ever seen in any sports arena, in any sport. Just an incredibly mentally strong athlete."

Novak Djokovic still remains the favourite to win any tournament he enters and is capable of winning six more grand slams before the end of next year.

That is according to former Wimbledon winner Richard Krajicek, who told Stats Perform he considers Djokovic the sport's all-time greatest.

Djokovic won three majors last year and reached the final of a fourth, but he was knocked out of the 2024 Australian Open at the semi-final stage.

Jannik Sinner defeated the 10-time Melbourne champion in four sets before beating Daniil Medvedev in the final, seeming to usher in a new era for tennis.

However, Krajicek insists Djokovic is far from done as he continues to pick and choose which tournaments he enters. 

"Five or six years ago, I was wondering how long he's going to maintain his level, but he's still doing it," Krajicek told Stats Perform.

"He played very few tournaments last year and still managed to be number one. 

"I doubt that he's going to stay number one for long if he only plays 11 or 12 events because then you basically have to win every event.

"But for me, he's still going to win one to three grand slams a year, for the next two years at least."

Wimbledon was the only major at which Djokovic fell short last year as his streak of four straight titles at SW19 came to an end against Carlos Alcaraz.

Krajicek, who won the tournament in 1996, believes the 36-year-old remains the man to beat in this year's competition.

"For sure, at Wimbledon," Krajicek said when asked if Djokovic is the favourite. "The French Open and the US Open has more competition. 

"It's difficult as there are more strong, fit players like Medvedev, Sinner and Alcaraz. 

"That will be very difficult to win the US Open, but for me, he is still the favourite to win Wimbledon."

Djokovic won his 24th grand slam singles title when triumphing at the US Open last September with victory over Medvedev in the final.

The world number one is two in front of Rafael Nadal for the most majors won by a male in the Open Era, while the retired Roger Federer finished on 20.

On that basis, Djokovic is the greatest of all time in the view of Krajicek, who also cites his longevity.

"For me, he's the best player that ever played the game," the Dutchman said. "He has won every grand slam at least three times. 

"He's won 24 grand slams, and he's also won four grand slams in a row previously. Those are just incredible stats. 

"He's been number one for over 400 weeks, and I think Federer is the next one with about 310 weeks. 

"So, for me, Federer and Nadal are unbelievable players, but Djokovic is just a little level higher."

Plans to found a European Super League are "purely about money" and the breakaway competition would cause smaller clubs to disappear if it ever came into being.

That is the view of Shakhtar Donetsk chief executive Serhiy Palkin, who believes the vast majority of European clubs are united in their support for UEFA.

The threat of a Super League has never fully gone away despite fierce fan and media opposition causing the competition's attempted 2021 launch to fail in spectacular fashion.

Real Madrid and Barcelona remain committed to the project, and in late 2022, A22 Sports Management was enlisted to oversee its revival, with a plan for a three-tier competition featuring promotion and relegation with no permanent members made public last year. 

Those plans were met with widespread criticism, with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin saying the proposal was "even more closed" than the initial Super League format, given a tier-one founder would be guaranteed three years in the competition regardless of their results. 

Last December, the European Court of Justice ruled UEFA cannot stop breakaway competitions by threatening to sanction clubs, but Palkin feels there is no real desire for change.

"For me, it's difficult to discuss. When this news was issued about A22 winning in court, we had already issued our statement, we are supporting UEFA," he told Stats Perform.

"Almost 90 per cent of clubs did the same statement on their websites. We have a special group on WhatsApp, everybody supports UEFA. I don't understand this Super League. 

"I don't understand what kind of essence they have. I don't understand why we need to change something, when under the umbrella of UEFA, we have very well-structured competitions. 

"If you look from 10 years ago to today, they developed a lot of things in a good way and they are always raising the amount of money that we receive. 

"They are increasing the number of games, they are increasing the number of competitions with the Conference League.

"They involved a lot of clubs. It's not all clubs, but the number of clubs involved in European competitions is increasing significantly. 

"The most important thing for me is the involvement of clubs in European competitions and the financial support of these competitions. All the numbers are just increasing."

Palkin believes only the very richest clubs stand to benefit from the Super League, warning smaller sides might struggle to stay afloat if the plans ever come to fruition. 

"We don't have just 25 clubs in Europe. We need to pay attention to the whole of football. The most important thing is to spread football over the whole of Europe," he added. 

"Otherwise, don't go to stadiums, just switch on the TV and see the top, top clubs playing between each other, and that's it. Then they become much, much richer, and others disappear. 

"For them [smaller clubs], receiving these bonuses from UEFA is critical from a financial point of view. 

"I support football, the game itself, and we need to promote this idea. This Super League, it's not about the game, it's just about money. It's purely about money."

Fernando Alonso's legacy in Formula One will be defined by questions about what might have been, according to former Force India driver Paul di Resta.

However, Di Resta hopes Alonso will not call time on his glittering career for some time yet, as the 42-year-old begins his second season with Aston Martin. 

Alonso impressed en route to a fourth-placed finish in the drivers' championship last year, securing eight podium finishes in his first campaign with the team.

The two-time world champion's future has been a subject of speculation throughout the offseason, with the Spaniard touted as a candidate to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes when he joins Ferrari in 2025. 

Ahead of Saturday's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Alonso said he is yet to decide whether he will race at all next year, and Di Resta would be disappointed if F1 lost one of its biggest characters.

Di Resta also believes Alonso will look back upon his short-lived move to McLaren in 2007 – and his subsequent switch back to Renault – with a few regrets. 

"I've got a huge amount of respect for him. I wish he hadn't taken that [break] when he disappeared out of Formula One for a couple of years," Di Resta told Stats Perform.

"I think the biggest thing with Fernando is what could have been, with the championships he probably should have won and the ones he came close to. 

"Some of the choices he made, moving to teams… I'm sure he's not scared to talk about that. I think he's just a born racer, absolutely committed to it. 

"His spatial awareness, in race starts or on the first lap, wheel to wheel, there's probably not many people like it. 

"I will miss watching him. I hope he's around for a long time and I think he's showing that age is not a thing, he can still grab great results. 

"I think he's happier than he's ever been, less emotional, he sees the journey for what it is, he probably sees the end is closer in that sense and he's milking everything he can from it.

"I just love to see [Max] Verstappen, [Charles] Leclerc, Alonso, Hamilton in different teams going against each other, and I think people definitely respect what he's done, and he draws a lot of attention, and attention is a great thing for the sport."

While reigning world champion Verstappen is expected to dominate again in 2024, Alonso is among a group of drivers looking to take race wins off Red Bull. 

McLaren's Lando Norris is another with lofty ambitions for the new season, and Di Resta thinks the 24-year-old has a big future ahead of him.

"I'd be surprised if he doesn't win a world championship, given his ability," he said. "I think the key for him will be reading where the best place to be for the future is, whether McLaren are back to being a consistent team to deliver a world championship. 

"I think Lando definitely is up to that. Oscar [Piastri], he did a very good job for a rookie last year. He was a bit short of Lando in the races if you're being honest. 

"In qualifying, he definitely had the measure and had the speed, so I'm expecting him to push Lando even more and I'm expecting him to be even closer to Lando. 

"They've got great foundations and great team spirit to move forward. They will get into battles and you can see there's some frustration in their races with strategy and how it's going to play out, but Lando is very comfortable and I think he's probably in the top three picks within the grid."

Max Verstappen may be the clear favourite for a fourth straight Formula One championship, but Paul di Resta does not see Red Bull having it all their own way in 2024.

Verstappen has dominated the sport in the past two seasons after pipping rival Lewis Hamilton to win his first title back in 2021.

The Dutchman was champion by 146 points in 2022, then stretched that gap to a staggering 290 points last year as he won 19 of 22 races.

Di Resta, who drove for Force India, hailed Red Bull's "incredible job" as they "pulled out a couple of wins they shouldn't have", but he expects Verstappen to at least have some competition in the coming campaign.

"People will get closer this year, 100 per cent," Di Resta told Stats Perform. "It's not going to be a runaway like it was.

"But to get on top of that at every grand prix with the advantage that he had at some tracks last year, I don't see how they can lose the championship, to be honest, unless somebody's got something hiding in the wind tunnel that they're going to bring out and surprise everyone with.

"Over the course of the season, I think he'll get the job done.

"I think he'll have a harder time at it, and I'd like to see them more in battle. I'd like to see them up against Lando [Norris], I'd like to see them up against Lewis, Ferrari in there as well.

"The biggest thing is when it's closer, when you're having a bad day, you're having a bad day. When you're having a good day, you're having a good day. The swing was not big enough ever because he was always winning last year."

Mercedes did not win a single race in 2023, but Di Resta sees the Silver Arrows as Red Bull's biggest rivals again in what is set to be Hamilton's final season with the team before joining Ferrari.

"I think it'll be Mercedes," he said. "They've said they're coming out with a car that's very different, very different philosophy.

"They are undoubtedly still one of the best teams in Formula One, and I think just when you look at the last 10 years and how they've gone about their business, you have to believe in that."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.