Brighton and Hove Albion chief executive Paul Barber has saluted "phenomenal" boss Roberto De Zerbi for leading the Seagulls to Europa League qualification.

Brighton will appear on the continent for the first time in their history next season after securing a hugely impressive sixth-placed finish in the Premier League.

De Zerbi has been a revelation since arriving at the Amex Stadium following Graham Potter's move to Chelsea, who subsequently sacked the coach after just under seven months in charge at Stamford Bridge.

Barber has heaped praise upon the Italian, who also guided Brighton to the FA Cup semi-finals, where they were beaten by Manchester United on penalties at Wembley Stadium.

"He's been phenomenal," the Seagulls' chief executive told Stats Perform at the Football Business Awards. 

"It's his first time working in the Premier League. He's had to learn English, he's had to adapt to life in England, he's had to learn a new league, work with new players. So we're thrilled for him, and he's done a fantastic job.

"It's the first time in 122 years that we've reached European football. So it's a fantastic achievement for the coaches and the players, and we're delighted for them. And also, I think it's a great opportunity for the fans to celebrate their club in a new competition for the first time."

It was not all plain sailing for Brighton, who saw key forward Leandro Trossard depart for Arsenal during the January transfer window.

But Barber revealed the club were prepared for any possible setbacks, and while he acknowledges more players may leave, he insists that selling is not a necessity.

"The key thing has been succession planning, we have a plan for key positions within the club, should we lose people in those positions," he explained. "I think that's very important if you want to maintain momentum.

"We're fortunate that we've got a very good owner. We've got a fantastic infrastructure, we sell out all of our games, and we generate great revenues from our sponsors, and from our hospitality and non-matchday work. So no, it's not essential.

"But we also recognise that the best players want to play at the top level and it's possible we will lose players at some point."

Barber is also confident it is only a matter of time before former Seagulls boss Potter is given another opportunity following his poor spell at Chelsea. 

"Graham worked with us for three years," he added. "He did a fantastic job during his time and sometimes when you move to a different club, for whatever reason, it doesn't work out.

"But what we do know is Graham is an excellent coach and an excellent individual. And I'm sure very soon, he'll be back in top-level football."

Roberto De Zerbi hopes to help goalkeeper Jason Steele gain England recognition after claiming Lewis Dunk’s international recall is a comparable achievement to Brighton qualifying for the Europa League.

Seagulls skipper Dunk has been included in Gareth Southgate’s squad for next month’s Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia, having been in international exile since his debut in November 2018.

The 31-year-old has been rewarded for his key role in Albion’s sixth-placed Premier League finish.

Former Middlesbrough, Blackburn and Sunderland keeper Steele has also been instrumental during a remarkable season at the Amex Stadium after dislodging Robert Sanchez as first choice in early March.

Brighton head coach De Zerbi believes the 32-year-old is capable of joining Dunk in the national team set-up to compete with the likes of Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope and Sam Johnstone.

“It’s great news,” the Italian said of Dunk’s call-up.

“I think it’s maybe the same big news like Europa League because to help one of our players to achieve a target so important, so prestigious is a proud (moment).

“We have to be proud – not only the coaches but the players – for one player.

“We will work in the next season to help Jason Steele to achieve the same target of Lewis Dunk because he has the quality to achieve one target so important.

“In my vision, in my idea, Jason Steele is a top keeper. It’s difficult to find another keeper of this level.

“I study football 24 hours per day but it’s very hard to find another keeper with this quality.”

Steele, a former England Under-21 international who represented Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympics, had never played in the top flight until last term.

He has registered six clean sheets and one assist during the past three months, having been preferred to Sanchez due to his ability to play out from the back.

Steele joined the Seagulls in June 2018 – on the back of suffering successive relegations to League One with Blackburn and Sunderland – and had to wait more than three years for his league debut.

“Football is nice because the past is not important,” said De Zerbi.

“I have to analyse the present and sometimes the potential in the future but the past is not important.

“You can change your life in one day, if you believe in yourself and you believe in work.

“And I told him the same: ‘Jason, you have to think you can change. I give you the possibility to change your life, to change your career and you have to believe in yourself because I help you and you help me and you help the team’.”

Brighton complete an unforgettable campaign at Aston Villa on Sunday after cementing their Europa League spot with Wednesday evening’s 1-1 draw at home to champions Manchester City.

De Zerbi, who succeeded Graham Potter in September, feels Albion can progress significantly next term.

“I am looking forward to working in pre-season because I think we can improve in a lot of things,” he said.

“We have played not more than 70 per cent and we have another 30 per cent of improvement.”

Pep Guardiola has no doubt “goal machine” Erling Haaland is ready to fire in Manchester City’s two upcoming finals.

The prolific Norwegian’s output has slowed in recent weeks with just one goal in his last six games.

For someone who has plundered 52 in a remarkable season that is a relative drought but that is hardly troubling Guardiola ahead of the FA Cup and Champions League finals.

Premier League champions City face Manchester United at Wembley next weekend before travelling to Istanbul to take on Inter Milan for the European crown seven days later.

City manager Guardiola said: “I’m not going to doubt about the scoring machine, Erling, right now.

“We had the chances. Maybe he’s waiting for the right moment. He will be ready in the right moment to score the goals. He’s ready.

“I’m very pleased he’s achieved all he’s achieved, and the goals and the records.

“Then he goes to Brighton and plays the way he played. He still did damage (without scoring).

“He could say, ‘I’m waiting for the two finals’ but it’s completely the opposite and I like that.”

Guardiola has been impressed by how Haaland has dealt with expectation in his first season in English football.

“I don’t feel he’s felt much pressure,” Guardiola said. “I think he’s handled it really well. He laughs, I think, when people (mention) expectations.

“I remember in the Community Shield, we lost 3-1 and he missed one clear chance – all the memes, all the people talked about that.

“I was close to him and he said, ‘Don’t worry, I will score goals’. He’s this type of guy. He has incredible self-confidence in himself that all he needs is the chance to score the goals.

“It doesn’t matter what happened, he’ll never lose confidence. You define the football players and the athletes in the bad moments. It’s how you react.”

City, who secured the title last weekend, wrap up their Premier League campaign at Brentford on Sunday.

The Bees inflicted City’s only home defeat of the season when they won 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium with an Ivan Toney double in November.

Toney will not be involved this time after the striker was banned for eight months for breaching betting regulations.

Guardiola hopes the player bounces back after he has served his punishment.

Guardiola said: “Everyone has problems. If he made a mistake, you accept it and learn from that and (take) a new opportunity. I’m pretty sure he will be (back) better.”

David Moyes admits he finds it impossible to switch off during the close-season.

The West Ham boss is resigned to losing captain Declan Rice this summer and will be inundated with calls from agents suggesting replacements.

“I am the exact opposite of switching off, I am on my phone all the time, there’s recruitment and things going on,” said Moyes.

“When you talk about the job as a manager, it is so full on. I am sure there are some managers who say ‘no problem and I’ll put my phone away’. I have never been like that, I am always on my phone and available.

“I am getting 400 different names put to me every day, a lot of them you don’t know, some of them you do know and some of them you go, ‘I quite like him’.

“When you are doing nothing, the agents start to get busy and that’s when it becomes a difficult time as a manager to switch off.”

Moyes can at least relax in the knowledge West Ham are safe from relegation ahead of Sunday’s trip to Leicester, who are still in the drop zone.

The Hammers also have a Europa Conference League final against Fiorentina in Prague to look forward to next month.

“I hope to be playing plenty of golf, just trying to recover as it’s been a real difficult year for the club and myself,” added Moyes.

“I think we’ve been a good side, but we’ve maybe not shown that we are a good side that often this year.

“But I just see it as a huge achievement for the whole of West Ham as a football club, to be in a European final.

“I don’t know if I would have said this when I came back to the club three years ago, you wouldn’t have believed me at all. The supporters were probably thinking that as well. If I wasn’t at West Ham, I would have said ‘you’re off your head’.

“Maybe the draw in Europe has been a bit kinder to us – but that’s part of being in the cup competitions.”

Leicester boss Dean Smith knows he will have fulfilled a “big ask” if he can guide his side to Premier League survival on Sunday.

The Foxes must beat West Ham at the King Power Stadium and hope Everton do not win against Bournemouth if they are to avoid relegation to the Championship.

Smith was parachuted into an eight-game SOS mission following Brendan Rodgers’ sacking at the beginning of April but has recorded just one victory from his first seven games and accepts that his side have not done as well as he thought they would.

The 52-year-old has experience of producing the great escape as he led Aston Villa to seven points from their final four games of the 2019/20 season to beat the drop and says something similar would be required.

Smith said: “When you first come in you look at games and I looked at Man City, Liverpool and Newcastle and knew they were going to be tough to get points out of. I expected us probably to win our home games and nick points away from home, with probably the exception of Liverpool.

“We are a few points short of where I expected to be and that’s why it has come down to the last one.

“This would be a very proud day if we do it, but we have to win our game and rely on other results. Each escape will have its own merits, the one at Villa with four games to go was seven points. That in itself was a big ask, this has been a big ask and hopefully we can do it.”

It is only two years ago since Leicester were winning the FA Cup and fighting for Champions League qualification, but they have dropped quickly after having to balance the books in the league.

And Smith says that shows just how tough the league can be for those outside the traditional ‘big six’.

“This league is precarious. You’ve got to have really good models now to stay in the league,” he said.

“You look at Brighton and Brentford, two really good models of clubs, one I know very well because I worked there.

“It is hard. You need the finance behind it but it’s not just about finance as you can see in Brentford’s case.

“There are many different ways to stay in the league but it’s a real tough league. Very quickly you can go and lose two or three games on the spin. All of a sudden that just drains the confidence of players.”

Mikel Arteta believes the timing of injuries that hit his squad late in the season ultimately cost Arsenal in their bid to hold off Manchester City and win the Premier League.

The team’s collapse largely coincided with a back injury sustained by defender William Saliba during their Europa League exit to Sporting Lisbon in March, with stand-in centre-back Rob Holding struggling to match the standard set by his team-mate.

Arsenal were also without strikers Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah, defenders Oleksandr Zinchenko and Takehiro Tomiyasu and midfielder Mohamed Elneny for large parts of the season as they were eventually chased down by City despite leading the table for 248 days.

It hands the club the unwanted record of the most number of days spent top of the league without becoming champions.

Collecting just nine points from their last eight games extinguished the challenge from Arteta’s side, but the manager pointed to three draws in April – away at Liverpool and West Ham and at home to bottom-side Southampton – as the period where critical damage was done to their title hopes.

The Gunners threw away two-goal leads at Anfield and the London Stadium before gifting Saints a 3-1 lead at the Emirates, from which they could not recover to win.

Arteta felt his team should have beaten all three opponents in spite of Saliba’s absence, but noted that the title was usually won by sides that did not suffer the bad luck with injuries that hit Arsenal this season.

“There were a few things (that caused the collapse) because we could have won at least three of the games that we drew without Willy and two of them really comfortably,” said Arteta. “But we didn’t.

“We had some critical moments where we didn’t maximise the opportunity that we had in front of us. You have to arrive at this stage with 24 fit players in the best condition, ready to go.

“It happened last season. In the last stages we lost three or four key players and it’s happened this season.

“It’s a big lesson, because when you look who wins and how doesn’t win, they have the 24 of them with the knife in the teeth, ready to go physically and mentally, all going for it and they can have real momentum. We didn’t have that again.

“Timing is everything. Moments define the season in your own way and for opponents. That’s dictated by many, many, many factors and you have to acknowledge that. There are certain things you don’t control and certain other things not.

“We fail in certain (moments) in our control, but I’m sure there are things we could have done different or better.”

Arteta was asked whether he feared for Arsenal’s prospects of challenging again next season, given the difficulties that Liverpool have endured this campaign after pushing City to the final day last May.

Jurgen Klopp’s team have failed to make the top four despite finishing a point behind the champions last season after a pulsating title race.

As well as the loss of key players and feeling the impact of an ageing team, it had been suggested that there had been a mental hangover at Anfield from last year’s pursuit of Pep Guardiola’s side.

“Whatever we do now in the last game and what we’ve done in the last week is just to build into what is going to happen afterwards,” said Arteta.

“Painting a very clear picture of where we want to go and who wants to be part of that journey.”

The manager also reiterated his commitment to the club after a year in which his personal stock has risen greatly.

He added: “I am very happy here, I’m very happy with my contract. Let’s move on and let’s have a great season again.”

Erik ten Hag believes ever-improving Manchester United star Marcus Rashford can become a 40-goal-a-season forward.

The 25-year-old pressed reset last summer after the most chastening year of his career, kicked off by his heart-breaking penalty shoot-out miss in England’s Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy.

Post-tournament shoulder surgery kept Rashford sidelined and an initial flurry of goals on his return quickly dried up amid widespread criticism.

But a priceless pre-season under new boss Ten Hag led to a resurgence, with Rashford scoring his 30th goal of the season in all competitions in Thursday’s 4-1 win over Chelsea.

Rashford’s best haul saw him become the first United player to reach 30 goals since Robin van Persie a decade ago, but Ten Hag believes the best is yet to come.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement in his game,” the United boss said ahead of Sunday’s Premier League finale against Fulham. “I’m convinced he could score even more.

“I think when you take, for instance, the last 10 games, he didn’t score so many goals. I think only two or three.

“So, yeah, he can improve but I am happy from where he was last season to what he did now, that he brings himself back.

“We supported him where we could, with the way of play but also in his mental mindset, so we are happy with that.

“But, yeah, we have to push for more and I am sure he’s capable to score 40 goals in a season, to make also for him the next step.”

Asked if Rashford’s form takes the pressure off getting a striker in the summer, Ten Hag said: “We need across the squad more scoring abilities.

“You can’t be dependent on one. But it can also come from this squad, but we need more scoring abilities.”

Ten Hag has stressed the need for additions and internal improvements after a promising first season in the dugout.

United won February’s Carabao Cup and face Manchester City in the FA Cup final after wrapping up a Champions League return with a game to spare.

“We have to look to ourselves,” Ten Hag said about the next step. “We want to win the cup but that is for next Saturday and we have to do everything that’s in our power.

“I think in many aspects we can improve with this group of players, with this team. I know where we have to improve. I think there is a lot of room for improvement, yes.”

Ten Hag feels “fantastic in this club” and says Manchester feels like a home away from home, where the reaction to people he meets on the street is “absolutely positive”.

That feedback would be even greater from the red half of the city if United can stop rivals City’s treble charge at Wembley in the FA Cup final.

Asked if the FA Cup final was a free hit given what they have achieved already and City’s standing or a chance to send a statement, Ten Hag retorted: “Both not.

“But when I was here one year ago, I said we wanted to win trophies. We have won one, so we want to go for the highest.

“But that is a long, long way, it’s going to be a project. That’s not over one year. We’re talking over one to three years.

“But when there’s an opportunity to win a trophy, for every player it’s massive.

“I have to count but there are not so many players in our team, in our squad who have won the FA Cup. The FA Cup is huge for everyone in the world.

“You can have won the Champions League, you can have won so many titles, but when you have the opportunity to win the FA Cup, it goes all over the world, global-wide, a huge reputation.

“I know from the Netherlands how big the FA Cup is, so we have the opportunity to win that.

“We are also realistic (that) it’s not going to be easy but I can assure you one thing: we will give everything that’s in our power to get the cup.”

Eddie Howe does not want to be anywhere but Newcastle as he plots a route to lasting success after delivering Champions League football at the end of his first full season at the helm.

The 45-year-old will spend the summer working with the club’s owners and sporting director Dan Ashworth to bolster a squad already enhanced by spending in excess of £250million for the challenges which lie ahead.

In doing so he will have to make a series of tough decisions, but not about his own situation.

Asked if his long-term future lies at St James’ Park, Howe said: “Very much so, there is no other thought in my mind.

“For as long as I’m wanted, Newcastle is where I want to be. I’m hugely excited about next season and hopefully beyond.”

Howe has been linked repeatedly with the England job in recent years and his early success on Tyneside after his sterling work at Bournemouth has seen his reputation blossom.

However, he is not a man to rest on his laurels and knows what lies ahead may prove even more difficult as he attempts to balance the demands of domestic and European football.

He said: “It can be tougher [playing in Europe]. I don’t want to come across as negative or pessimistic in any way, or almost having that mindset going into next season. We need to go into next season full of positivity and full of what can be.

“We want to compete, we want to try to win a trophy, so we are very, very ambitious to move things on, but the challenges will get harder and we have to be better.”

Tyneside has been bathed in euphoria since Monday night’s 0-0 draw with Leicester ensured just a third Champions League campaign for the club and took the pressure off Sunday’s trip to Chelsea.

However, while he is determined to make an impression among Europe’s elite, Howe has no intention of forgetting the bread and butter of the Premier League.

He said: “I look at the Premier League as your first target, the foundation to your season, really, so we won’t be going away from all eyes on the Premier League, all eyes on making sure we start as well as we can and we try to be as consistent as we can.

“We won’t be taken off course in terms of our focus. The Champions League will start later on. It’s the foundation that we’re looking at and that’s the Premier League.”

If the quest for Europe was something of a pipe dream back in August, the desperation to end a trophy drought which dates back to 1969 remains after despite February’s Carabao Cup final defeat, and that will not be pushed into the background either.

Howe said: “We won’t look at the domestic cups and sacrifice them for the Champions League. That’s not my mindset sitting here now.

“We want to try to win a trophy and we came very close this year. We want to go one step further.”

Tottenham acting head coach Ryan Mason has defended Daniel Levy and insisted the under-fire chairman has been let down by other people.

Levy has faced growing criticism this season and repeatedly had his name chanted at games with a section of supporters eager for the long-serving board member to depart.

Eighth-placed Spurs are currently searching for a new permanent head coach and managing director of football while they could find themselves not in Europe for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

Meanwhile, record goalscorer Harry Kane is about to enter the final year of his contract, but Mason leapt to the defence of Levy before the last match of the club’s season at relegation-threatened Leeds on Sunday.

He said: “It hurts him, it hurts everyone committed to this club and everyone who really cares and wants this club to be successful.

“One thing I will say is he’s spent money, he’s tried and I just think ultimately he has probably been let down by other people but that’s football.

“That happens and hopefully we can get things right quickly, make good decisions and it can turn around.”

Optimism was rife at the beginning of the campaign, but Spurs have lost 14 times in the Premier League, conceded 62 top-flight goals – their worst against tally since the 2002-03 term – and seen their trophy drought extend into a 15th season.

Mason pulled no punches when asked about positives, adding: “I think the biggest positive will be the future.

“And if we’re clever and if we do it right, then I think we’ll look back on this season and say it was tough, disappointing but ultimately it made us realise what we want to be.

“It made us realise who we are, what our history and DNA probably suggests we are, what our fans want, what our fans demand and hopefully there is a connection very soon where we look back and say disappointing season, absolutely yes, but it helped us.”

It was just over two months ago when Antonio Conte had his post-match outburst at Southampton and accused his own “selfish players” of not being a team or wanting to play under pressure.

Spurs have won only twice during the ensuing nine matches but Mason rejected any notion his old boss was right given the games in hand Newcastle, Liverpool and Brighton held over a club that were fourth at the start of April.

“We haven’t won an away game since January, conceded 60+ goals this season so this isn’t something that has just happened in recent weeks,” ex-Tottenham midfielder Mason stated.


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“Obviously we were left in a position in the league table that was probably false, in terms of other teams had games in hand.

“When you level them out, I think the first game we had against Man United (on April 27) we might have been seventh in the table so there were a lot of things that were probably false.

“One thing I will say is I respect everyone that I have worked with and I have learnt off a lot of people, but at the same time I am my own person and believe how not only this club, but how any football club I am at in the future, should work and operate.”

Mason will have a decision to make on his own future after the clash at Elland Road with the 31-year-old firmly of the belief he is ready for management following this latest caretaker spell.

He has consistently referenced the importance of “committed people” being at the club next season in recent weeks and hinted unspecified players could miss the trip to Leeds if they are not motivated to secure Tottenham a spot in the Europa Conference League with a seventh-placed finish.

“I am looking forward to it. I hope my players are looking forward to it too,” Mason said.

“I have made it very clear that if anyone isn’t up for the fight and doesn’t want to play in this type of game, then it is probably best we don’t play with them.

“I just think going forward that (commitment) is really important. That is probably the first thing we need to address.

“Whether it’s a cleaner, groundsman, members of staff, players here, coaches here, they need to be committed to this football club.

“It’s an honour to work here. I’ve played here, I felt that pride whenever I put on the shirt and for anyone who’s lucky enough to represent us next season, first of all they need to be committed to the football club.”

Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui insists it is unfair to label Arsenal as bottlers after their title challenge faltered.

The Gunners will finish second behind Manchester City having topped the table for the majority of the season.

They held an eight-point lead in March but dropped crucial points against Liverpool, West Ham and Southampton in the run-in before losing 4-1 at City in April.

Arsenal’s defeats to Brighton and Nottingham Forest handed City a third straight title but, ahead of Wolves’ trip to the Emirates for Sunday’s Premier League finale, Lopetegui feels the Gunners do not deserve criticism for coming second.

“Of course (they don’t). It’s an incredible league and in the end they lost to Manchester City in one of the last matches,” he said.

“They have done fantastic work – you only have to look at the teams that finished below them, incredible teams.

“So I praise Mikel (Arteta) for his fantastic work. I remember he had big problems when he arrived two years ago but they showed faith and belief in him and now they are collecting the rewards.

“He’s improved the team and changed a lot of players and put a lot of quality on the pitch and produced fantastic answers.

“Now they have an incredible project in front of them.

“That’s the merit of Mikel – fantastic work. In the same way, it highlights the merit of the club and the sporting director because he wouldn’t be able to do what he’s done without the belief in him.

“In football to believe in the mid term or long term is very difficult.

“It’s generally always short term. I think they are reaping the rewards for that belief and I’m happy for them because the teams that show patience and work a lot for the future deserve to have success.”

Lopetegui remains in talks with Wolves over his future having guided them to mid-table safety. He is looking for clarification on the amount of backing he will receive in the summer with financial fair play restricting the club’s spending power.

He wants to revamp the squad with several expected to leave including Ruben Neves and the out-of-contract Joao Moutinho and Adama Traore but Lopetegui suggested Raul Jimenez still has a Wolves future.

“Raul has another year on his contract with us and for me it’s not his last match with us. He’s our player,” he said.

“Raul is our player and he’s under contract. I hope he continues with us.”

The Premier League has a "bright future" despite a record-breaking season for managerial departures, according to the League Managers' Association chief executive Richard Bevan.

The 2022-23 season has seen 14 managerial changes – four more than any other previous Premier League campaign – after Javi Gracia parted ways with Leeds United just 70 days into his Elland Road tenure.

Graham Potter was also dismissed with little time to impress after replacing Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea, with only eight of the 20 top-flight clubs going through the entire campaign without a change in the dugout.

Bevan understands the brutal nature of the business and suggested managers acknowledge the pressure to provide instant success for their respective sides.

"Certainly, in football, the volatility of being a football manager and a coach is something that they understand. The coaches understand the importance of results," he told Stats Perform at the Football Business Awards.

"At the same time, I think it's making sure that all of our coaches have the right teams and the tools to succeed as a football manager.

"We've got some great successes as well, in terms of young managers coming through. And I think we have a bright future, despite the statistics of manager tenure this year.

"I think like everything else in business, and today with a football club, preparation [is essential to succeeding in a short space of time], and equally getting recruitment right.

"[Going forward] I hope the coaches and the managers all achieve their aspirations and also recognise that failure is not fatal.

"[Managers need to] make sure that they can maximise the opportunities and really build their team so that they're successful on the pitch, as well as the club being successful off the pitch."

Neymar's former Brazil team-mate Willian believes the forward could star for any team in world football, as he continues to be linked with a move to Manchester United.

Neymar has endured a frustrating spell with Paris Saint-Germain since leaving Barcelona in 2017, failing to win the Champions League and never playing more than 22 games in a single Ligue 1 campaign.

The 31-year-old was ruled out for the remainder of the season with an ankle injury in March, leaving him to watch PSG's Champions League round-of-16 exit against Bayern Munich from the sidelines. 

With PSG falling short of continental glory once again, both Neymar and fellow attacker Lionel Messi have been linked with a move at the end of the season.

Old Trafford has been suggested as a potential destination for the Brazil star after United clinched a return to the Champions League, and Willian believes he would thrive in England.

"Neymar, with the quality he has, performs anywhere," the Fulham winger told Stats Perform. 

"Wherever he goes in the world, he can easily perform with the quality he has, the talent he has. 

"It would be really cool to see him playing in the Premier League. Wherever he goes, he has the necessary quality to be able to enjoy and play the beautiful football he knows.

"He has a place in any team in the world for his quality. You only need to know if he wants to go to United. 

"It's a great club. For sure, if he goes there, he will be in a huge club. It's a club that has won many titles here, it's considered one of the biggest clubs in England along with Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, all big clubs. 

"If he comes to England, no doubt it would be great to see him in the Premier League."

While Neymar could become the latest Selecao star to grace the English top flight, his fellow Brazilian Roberto Firmino will seek pastures new after he plays his final game for Liverpool on Sunday.

Asked about Firmino's impact on the Premier League, Willian said: "He made history here. He's a player that I'm a big fan of, he's a star player for me. 

"He made history at Liverpool and won important titles. He is respected not only by Liverpool fans, but he is highly respected here in England. He leaves a legacy here. 

"I don't know if he'll stay in England, but if he leaves, he'll leave a huge legacy of what he did."

Willian was also asked about the performances of Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka, who signed a new long-term contract with the Gunners earlier this week following an outstanding campaign.

"He has the potential to be a great player, he has a lot of talent," Willian said of his fellow wideman.

"He's a player who has all the conditions to keep evolving, being one of Arsenal's big names and, consequently, fighting to be one of the best players in the league, without a doubt."

Mauricio Pochettino has "everything to succeed" in his first season if appointed as Chelsea's new head coach, according to former Blues winger Willian.

Pochettino has been out of management since being sacked as Paris Saint-Germain boss at the end of last season, but he is reportedly close to taking over at Stamford Bridge ahead of next campaign.

His rumoured arrival comes at the end of a tumultuous season for Chelsea, who have sacked Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter on the way to their lowest-ever points tally in the Premier League era.

But Willian, who won two Premier League titles as well as the Europa League during his seven-year spell with the Blues, believes Pochettino is the man to bring success back to the club.

"He is a great manager," Willian told Stats Perform. "He did a great job while he was at Tottenham and he has everything to succeed.

"Chelsea is a giant club, it's a club that is always used to winning titles. Chelsea might not win anything one year, but the next year they'll be fighting for a title.

"Chelsea has been winning titles this way for a few years now, and sometimes they don't do well in a league, but they win a European trophy or a cup.

"Chelsea is a club that will always fight for titles, and I think they have everything to fight for a title again next year."

Chelsea have spent over £600million in the transfer market since Todd Boehly's consortium took control of the club, including £323m on acquiring eight players in the January window alone.

Willian feels the new signings will come good, adding: "I think the team has quality players.

"They have signed a lot of players, but you can see they have a lot of quality players and I think they have everything to succeed, yes."

Willian now plies his trade with Chelsea's west London rivals Fulham, who have secured a top-half finish in a successful first Premier League campaign following their promotion last term, sitting nine points above the Blues with one game remaining.

Willian remembers his time at Stamford Bridge fondly, though, claiming they were the best years of a career that has also included spells at Arsenal and Shakhtar Donetsk.

"Chelsea was the best moment of my career," Willian said. "It was almost eight years, I won titles, I was very happy.

"Even before I was there, I already dreamed of playing for Chelsea. I watched Chelsea games on TV and I had this dream of playing there, and I was able to make that dream come true.

"For me, those were the best years of my career. Those were incredible years."

Roy Hodgson has asked his Crystal Palace players to ensure he goes out on a high if Sunday’s Premier League finale against Nottingham Forest proves to be his last game in charge.

The 75-year-old has said he is assuming Sunday’s match will be his last, having signed a contract to the end of the season when he returned to his boyhood club following the sacking of Patrick Vieira in March.

His impressive record – 17 points from nine games – has led to speculation that Steve Parish may ask Hodgson to stay on and the former England boss said he would keep his options open – but for now he is treating this weekend as his last in charge.

“We have got satisfaction as a coaching staff from the way the team has played,” Hodgson said.

“We have got satisfaction from the way the team has worked both on and off the training field and in matches, and as a result it leaves a very warm glow going into the last game.

“When I think back to the time we had, it also makes me a little bit nervous. It is the final game of the season in front of the home crowd, playing against a team below us in the table.

“I would like the boys to do well on Sunday and finish off in the best way possible and not finish on a bit of a damp squib.”

Hodgson has steered Palace comfortably clear of the relegation battle as they go into the final round of fixtures in 11th place.

And Hodgson said that was down to the commitment of the players and his backroom staff during the last two months.

“I will look back on this time working here with this group of players with a lot of satisfaction in the end, and what it has done is it has given us a lot of good moments in games when we have played well and got reward for playing well,” he said.

“That’s the thing you are always concerned about as a coach. Can you get the team playing well and doing the right things, defending as you want to defend and attacking as you want the team to attack, but then to get any rewards from it you have to win?

“The good attacking movement has to finish with a goal, not a shot which hits the crossbar or is saved by the goalkeeper or goes behind, because they get forgotten.

“The move will only be discussed or analysed or dissected by the pundits at the end of the game if the ball has gone in the back of the net.”

Boss Unai Emery admits Aston Villa’s final step to return to Europe will be their hardest.

Villa host Brighton on Sunday knowing victory would seal a European comeback for the first time since 2010-11.

It would book seventh in the Premier League and a Europa Conference League play-off spot but Emery knows it is a tough test.

“We have to be very ambitious and I am. I’m here trying to push everybody, to demand from everybody to get better playing and to take European places,” he said.

“We have to take each step being strong and being passionate about how to do it. We are in this way. We are progressing very well.

“I’m very, very happy with the players and their commitment, their character and they are responding very well. We are also connecting with our supporters.

“We are in the first step. If we achieve our objective on Sunday, we will be very, very happy.

“It’s the next step because we started by escaping from the bottom (of the table), we got into the top 10 and then we have the objective to be in the European places.

“The most difficult step is to get it, but we have our objective. And then if we don’t, it’s not changing our idea or our mind about how we want to improve.”

Brighton have already qualified for the Europa League, sealing sixth place with Wednesday’s 1-1 draw against Manchester City.

Boss Roberto De Zerbi has impressed since replacing Graham Potter in September and Emery is an admirer.

He said: “Football is changing so quickly. I’m 51 years old, I started coaching at 32, so I’ve had 19 years as a coach and manager.

“Always I am very focussed on how I can improve each day to be today, better than yesterday, to be tomorrow, better than today.

“It’s not only about my work or my experiences or my analysis, it’s about trying to watch other coaches. One of them is Roberto De Zerbi.

“I like coaches who can show us something different tactically, offensively and defensively. In football, you have to be in the fast train because it moves so quickly.”

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