Xabi Alonso is capable of guiding 'exceptional' Bayer Leverkusen through the remainder of the season unbeaten en route to winning a historic treble.

That is according to former Leverkusen defender Carsten Ramelow, who told Stats Perform that Alonso is undoubtedly the key to their success.

Bayer were crowned champions of Germany at the weekend for the first time in their 120-year history with five Bundesliga games still to play.

Not only have Alonso's side dodged defeat in the league, they have also not lost any of their 14 DFB-Pokal or Europa League matches.

With a 2-0 lead heading into their Europa quarter-final second leg against West Ham, and with Kaiserslautern awaiting them in the domestic cup final, the treble is very much on.

"The season they have played is phenomenal," Ramelow said. "Their streak is sensational and it looks like they will do this until the end. 

"Every team has a bit of a lapse, but Leverkusen have been exceptional in every competition. They can still win everything. Things are looking really good."

Former Real Sociedad B coach Alonso took over Leverkusen in October 2022 with the club second from bottom in the Bundesliga.

The Spaniard guided them to sixth last season and has taken them to the title in his first full campaign at BayArena, ending Bayern's run of 11 successive crowns.

Ramelow, who spent 13 years as a Leverkusen player, has hailed the part Alonso has played in the greatest season in the club's history.

"I heard a lot of people talk about him how much of a worker he is, and that he is also very companionable," Ramelow said. "The whole package is in perfect harmony.

"I think that the coach has big merit in this. When he arrived in Leverkusen, he was facing a few problems, which is normal. 

"I think you have to give managers some time in this day and age. That's also what they did with him. He explained his philosophy and idea very well to the team. 

"The boys execute that really well. And I also think he’s a great guy who acts as an example for his players – both on and off the pitch."

Bayern Munich may always have an "attraction" to coaches but Carsten Ramelow does not expect Germany boss Julian Nagelsmann to return to the Bundesliga giants.

Nagelsmann was dismissed from his role as Bayern coach back in March 2023, as his former side were trying to make ground on Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga title race.

Thomas Tuchel was swiftly appointed as his replacement, leading the club to an 11th straight top-flight title last term, but the former Chelsea boss has failed to live up to expectations this season, and will leave at the end of the campaign.

Xabi Alonso rebuffed Bayern's interest to stay at Bayer Leverkusen, and it remains to be seen who the Bundesliga giants will go for as Tuchel's replacement.

Nagelsmann is preparing to lead Germany at Euro 2024, which they will host from June 14, and former international Ramelow cannot see him being enticed back to his old club.

"Quite honestly, it's hard for me to imagine that," Ramelow told Stats Perform when asked about Nagelsmann reuniting with Bayern. 

"I would be surprised. First, he was sacked at Bayern, then he got the chance to coach Germany and now he should return. 

"I think he will stay as Germany head coach. I also think that Bayern has different ideas, so let's be surprised by what they do over the next months."

Nagelsmann oversaw back-to-back friendly victories over France and Netherlands as Germany impressed in the March internationals.

Meanwhile, Tuchel's Bayern are almost out of the running for the Bundesliga title but will hope to reach the Champions League semi-final when Arsenal return to Germany for their finely poised last-eight tie.

Ramelow acknowledged that Bayern remain an attractive proposition for any coach, however.

"I mean everything is possible, sure," he added. "But I think that Nagelsmann has his own ideas and you don't take over as a national team's head coach only for a few months.

"Even though Bayern always has its attraction. But he coached them already and they had their reasons to sack him, so, I would be surprised."

Germany start their Euro 2024 campaign against Scotland at Allianz Arena on June 14, after friendlies against Ukraine and Greece to warm up for the tournament.

Toni Kroos' comeback from international retirement started with two impressive results but Carsten Ramelow remains "sceptical" over Germany's Euro 2024 hopes.

Real Madrid midfielder Kroos reversed his decision to retire from Julian Nagelsmann's national team, returning in March before back-to-back victories over France and Netherlands.

In doing so, the 34-year-old – who had not played on the international stage for three years prior – equalled Jurgen Klinsmann's 108-match tally, with only seven players now having more appearances for Germany.

Kroos was an integral figure in Nagelsmann's midfield as the Euro 2024 hosts swept aside France 2-0 in a Lyon friendly before overcoming Netherlands 2-1 in a Frankfurt meeting.

Yet former Germany midfielder Ramelow remains unsure whether Nagelsmann's side will hit similar heights when it comes to hosting the European Championships in June.

"I don't know what happened with the team in the March games but the results were good," former Bayer Leverkusen player Ramelow told Stats Perform.

"In Germany, you now tend to say we will win the Euros… We also play at home, so we are European Champions already – that's always interesting how the media sees this.

"The positive things were the recent results and the performances of the national team. They have improved drastically, also the overall mentality.

"Whether it was the impact of Toni Kroos, we will see. He is a player that has held a very high level over the years with Real Madrid, no doubt.

"He can definitely help the team, but whether that is something for the future remains to be seen. I am still sceptical because we had many years where nothing worked and two games where they played well."

Ramelow was at least pleased to see Germany find basics such as "passion, heart and commitment" in the friendly victories, though insists time will tell on their success and Kroos' performances.

"[The results] also created euphoria, which is good," the versatile 46-cap Germany defender added. "But in the end, we have to wait for the tournament to start.

"Then we will see if all of that still works between Toni Kroos and the rest of the team. I think it's too early to claim we are back on track and will play a successful tournament.

"Regarding Toni Kroos, I also have to say I was a bit surprised about his comeback, because they attempted to start all over again."

Germany start their Euro 2024 campaign against Scotland on June 14, though Kroos and his team will face Ukraine and Greece in friendlies before that tournament opener at the Allianz Arena.

Erik ten Hag deserves to be given more time by Manchester United, where off-pitch disruption has hampered the Dutchman's attempts to instil his preferred style.  

That is the view of former Netherlands international Urby Emanuelson, who worked with Ten Hag at Utrecht and believes he can achieve long-term success under the Jim Ratcliffe regime. 

Ten Hag is under pressure amid an underwhelming second campaign at Old Trafford, with United suffering an early Champions League exit and languishing 11 points adrift of the Premier League's top four.

United's total of 12 Premier League defeats this season is their joint-most in a single campaign (with 2013-14 and 2021-22), while Ten Hag's side have also been criticised for a perceived lack of off-the-ball organisation.

Only bottom club Sheffield United (560) have faced more shots than the Red Devils' 554 in the Premier League this season, while their expected goals against (xGA) figure of 58.2 is also the third-highest in the competition.

While Ten Hag recently said he has "no doubts" over his future, Gareth Southgate, Graham Potter and Gary O'Neil have been touted as possible successors if Ratcliffe – who recently acquired a minority stake in the club from the Glazer family – makes a change.

Emanuelson, though, thinks Ten Hag deserves more time.

"I worked with him at FC Utrecht in the last few seasons of my career, and I have to say he's an amazing coach in the way he can prepare a team. It's amazing," he told Stats Perform.

"I think he's doing well at Manchester United. It's difficult to be a coach of Manchester United, especially in the period they are in with that club.

"You know there are a lot of things going on in Manchester, so it's not easy not to be a coach there and I think he's doing well.

"Of course, you cannot win everything because the Premier League is a tough league, but he's trying to get his team ready. He's trying to let the club, or at least the team, grow to a different level than where they were at."

United are major outsiders in the race for Champions League qualification after being pegged back in an entertaining 2-2 draw with Liverpool last Sunday.

   With seven games to play, they sit 11 points adrift of Tottenham in fourth and Aston Villa in fifth, with England potentially receiving an additional spot through UEFA's coefficient rankings.

Emanuelson has not given up hope of the Red Devils making it, saying: "I just hope he finishes the season in a good way and they end up in the top four. I wish him all the best. 

"I have a good relationship with him, and I just hope he gets the time he needs to turn things around, and I hope he will get the results he wants."

Florian Wirtz should follow Xabi Alonso's lead and reject interest from Europe's top clubs to stay at Bayer Leverkusen beyond this season, says former Germany international Carsten Ramelow.

Wirtz has been one of the standout performers in a remarkable campaign for Leverkusen, who are just one win away from clinching their first Bundesliga title.

The attacking midfielder has 18 goal involvements in 28 league outings this term (eight goals, 10 assists), with his latest goal coming from the penalty spot in Saturday's win over Union Berlin.  

Among all Bundesliga players, Wirtz ranks third for successful dribbles (77), fifth for chances created (70) and fourth for expected assists (9.23 xA) this season.

His performances have won him plenty of admirers, with Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Real Madrid among those credited with an interest in the 20-year-old.

However, after seeing head coach Alonso reaffirm his commitment to Leverkusen, Ramelow, who made over 400 appearances for Die Werkself between 1995 and 2008, thinks Wirtz should follow suit. 

"For Leverkusen, he is indispensable," the 2002 World Cup finalist told Stats Perform. "The same goes for the national team, where he has found a good role. 

"There's a lot of speculation. When you're in great form, the big teams come knocking. Leverkusen hope he will continue with them for a while and move on after that. 

"In my opinion, it would be good for his development to stay in Leverkusen, because you can see if young players leave too early, it is not always good."

With Alonso refusing to jump ship, Ramelow feels Leverkusen still have plenty to offer Wirtz, saying: "To show consistent performances, you have to be where you feel happy, and I think Leverkusen is a good place currently. 

"They are so consistent. They have a lot of confidence and also a pinch of luck in the final moments to win games. That's really good. You have to look at the collective, the coach and his staff.

"But of course, Wirtz is a very young player who showed his talent many times over the last few years. He has made really good development and has lots more to come.

"Why not continue on that path for another one, two, maybe even three years and make the next step afterwards? This is what I think is the right way, but we will see what decision Wirtz takes."

Remarkably, Leverkusen are yet to lose a game in any competition this season. They have just six further games to navigate in the Bundesliga, while they will face second tier Kaiserslautern in May's DFB-Pokal final and are among the favourites to win the Europa League.

 As Leverkusen look to banish the ghosts of 2001-02 – when they finished as runners up in the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League – Ramelow says all the credit lies with Alonso.

"When he arrived in Leverkusen, he was facing a few problems, which is normal. I think you have to give managers some time in this day and age," Ramelow said.

"That is what they did with him. He explained his philosophy and ideas very well to the team. The boys execute that really well. 

"The whole package is in perfect harmony. The season they have played is phenomenal. Their streak is sensational and it looks like they will do this until the end. 

"Every team has a bit of a lapse every season, but Leverkusen have been exceptional across all competitions. They can still win everything. Things are looking really good."

Real Madrid enter their Champions League quarter-final tie against Manchester City as favourites due to their counterattacking prowess, believes former City loanee Kiki Musampa.

City became European champions for the first time last season as they won the treble, and they are seen by many as strong favourites to retain their crown this campaign.

However, Pep Guardiola's men have been handed a tough draw in the last eight, facing 14-time winners Madrid with a semi-final tie against Arsenal or Bayern Munich on the line.

It will be the third successive season in which City and Madrid have faced off in the Champions League's knockout stages following semi-final ties in 2021-22 and 2022-23, with the Santiago Bernabeu playing host to the first leg on Tuesday.

While Madrid have only won one of their last six Champions League matches against City (one draw, four defeats), Musampa – who spent the 2005-06 season on loan at the Etihad from Atletico Madrid – does not feel Los Blancos can ever be described as underdogs.

Musampa, an ambassador for ANF Sports, said: "I'm very excited. It's a very complicated and difficult game because Madrid are always Madrid. 

"I have experienced them in Spain and no matter how their form is or what type of players they have, they will always be the favourites and you need to be at your best, all of you, to beat Madrid in these games."

City's average possession share of 71.26 per cent is comfortably the highest in the Champions League proper this season, with Madrid ranking sixth by that metric with 57.37 per cent. 

However, Madrid's 31 direct attacks are at least 11 more than any other team has recorded in this edition of the competition (Bayern have 20), and Musampa feels their dynamism may give them the edge.

"One team will want to play, that's City, and Madrid are comfortable with dropping back and trying to counterattack," he said. 

"So, it's interesting from a tactical point of view. What will City do? We have seen a lot of times that they are vulnerable when the opponent is counterattacking them. 

"Nowadays, with Liverpool, I think Madrid are one of the best counterattacking teams. So, I think in the end it's going to be a very difficult game for City, but I hope they go through."

England should not expect to win Euro 2024 but they have a chance to triumph if things go their way, according to David James, who also believes the Three Lions will be well-prepared for life after Gareth Southgate.

Southgate's England were penalty shoot-out losers to Italy in the final of the delayed Euro 2020, having also suffered World Cup semi-final elimination at the hands of Croatia in 2018.

The Three Lions, as per FIFA's rankings, are the third-best side in the world at present – behind only World Cup holders Argentina and fellow European side France – ahead of the likes of Belgium, Brazil and Netherlands.

With Germany's Euro 2024 on the horizon, starting on June 14, former England goalkeeper James says the Three Lions should not expect to win the tournament, though have no reason to not believe if things go to plan.

He told Stats Perform: "It's a difficult one - it's almost like trying to predict this game a week before the kick-off. I think realistic success for an England team is getting to semi-finals, or ideally finals.

"I was there like many at the Euro 2020 final against Italy, and it was heartbreaking. It's literally two penalties difference between us and Italy winning.

"I think that's still a success. Of course, people want that trophy and naturally you'd like England to win the trophy.

"Italy proved it, albeit for one tournament – they haven't been any good since then – but they were the best team [in the world]. They had the best tactics and in the end they ended up winning the tournament.

"So until the tournament starts, it's difficult… whether Spain, whether Germany, as everyone always talks about being successful in tournaments, whatever.

"I just think that England go in there not expecting to win it, but knowing that there is a chance if things go right, they can win it. I'm personally cheering them on all the way."

Though England will harbour hopes of going deep into the European Championship knockout stages once again, Southgate's future at the helm remains unclear.

His contract is due to expire in December this year, with reports linking Southgate to Manchester United's managerial position after the involvement of new shareholder Jim Ratcliffe, though England insist the focus is with the next task at hand.

James believes the Football Association (FA) is ready in preparation for whatever the future holds, suggesting England's success has not solely fallen on Southgate but rather the organisation's operation process as a whole.

He added: "I think it's interesting. When you look at Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, they're two managers that are, we can talk about them as individuals, but their whole success is based on how that club is set up.

"Any replacement for Jurgen, and for Pep Guardiola as well at some point, the manager will have to fit into the club's idea of how they improve the club essentially – I think England is exactly the same.

"Gareth is at the helm at the moment as a manager, but I don't think it's just down to Gareth. I think it's down to a very, very strong network of people around him to the point that he can make a decision that he doesn't want to do it anymore or whatever, stay on.

"I think the only way that he gets asked to leave is if England do desperately bad in a tournament. Other than that, then it's his call.

"I think it's more about Gareth but whoever and whenever he's replaced, they will be going into a setup which is suited by the FA rather than the manager who's trying to set things up themselves."

As to whether Southgate's tenure would be seemed a success without silverware, James placed his backing in the England manager.

"There's a lot of people who would say that England needs to win something for him to have had a good tenure as a manager," he continued. "But I would argue that I think he's been fantastic.

"He took England to a final and a semi-final and I hope in the Euros that he can do the same. I'm confident England will do well."

Pep Guardiola is the best manager of all time, according to former Manchester City goalkeeper David James.

Guardiola claimed a historic treble with City last season, taking his tally to 11 league titles and three Champions League trophies across his time at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and the Citizens over a glittering managerial career.

Guardiola has led City to the Premier League title in five of the last six campaigns, and his team is deeply entrenched in yet another battle at the top of the division this season, too, sitting third but just a point behind leaders Arsenal, who they face on Sunday in a huge clash.

Alex Ferguson leads the way with 13 Premier League titles over 21 editions of the competition, but James believes the rate at which Guardiola is catching up with the Scot means the former Barca boss must be considered the best manager of all time.

"Tactically, and with regards to what he's won, I'm struggling to think of a manager who's overall done better [than Guardiola]," James told Stats Perform. "Alex Ferguson you could think of, but Alex Ferguson had [a long time]. It's just ridiculous how good this guy is.

"I just think when you look at Pep, in a short period of time, he has effectively dominated anything he wants to go for. The Premier League, it is the best league in the world. His team has dominated.

"It wouldn't surprise me if they win the Champions League again. When you think the EFL Cup was his first [trophy], I think it was three years in a row, now it's the Premier League, and it's kind of like, well next is naturally the Champions League, isn't it?"

James believes it is Guardiola's ability to develop talented players into becoming world class that truly sets him apart from other managers and allows him to have so much success wherever he goes.

"For what anyone says about money being spent, I think other than Jack Grealish at one point, he's never bought the most expensive player," James added. "He gets the players and makes them better.

"You've got Phil Foden. The player I'm looking forward to over the rest of this season and next season is Oscar Bobb.

"There are players in the City side who are coming through or already there, and it's just a joy to watch."

For the majority of Guardiola's City career, Liverpool and their boss Jurgen Klopp have been his team's closest challengers.

That competition is soon to be coming to an end, however, with Klopp set to leave Liverpool at the end of the season after almost nine years in charge at Anfield.

James believes this will prove to be a huge loss for the Premier League, particularly when it comes to Klopp's personality, saying: "He has been so frank, so honest about anything that he's been asked.

"I just think it's so refreshing to have a manager who is managing one of the biggest clubs in the world in the most pressurised environments in sport, if you like, and he takes to it like it's a chit-chat around a cup of coffee over a table.

"While we've got him I think we have to enjoy him, and hope that at some point he comes back to the Premier League in some shape or form and just illuminates football for anyone who's following him."

Yet, James feels the nature of football means that if Liverpool's next manager succeeds on the pitch in a superior fashion to Klopp, the former Borussia Dortmund boss will become just another one of the top managers Liverpool have had.

"Will there be a gap? Yeah," James continued. "And the character will be difficult, if not near impossible to replace.

"However, the game will move on. And if the new manager of Liverpool hardly ever talks to anyone but gets results in Liverpool surpassing Jurgen's success on the trophy trail, then in the end Jurgen will just be one of the great managers that Liverpool had and it will all be about the new guy. We know how this game works."

Introducing an independent regular will serve up some "easy wins" as well as settling the ongoing financial disputes between the Premier League and lower tiers of the English footballing pyramid.

That was the message from football financial expert Kieran Maguire, who spoke to Stats Perform as charges continue to be pressed against the likes of Everton, Nottingham Forest and Leicester City.

Everton had an initial 10-point deduction reduced down to six for a breach of the Premier League's Profit and Sustainability Rules in the 2021-22 reporting period, though the Toffees are this week arguing a second case, which refers to the 2022-23 reporting period.

Forest saw four points taken away for their own misdemeanours under the same ruling, while Championship title contenders Leicester could face a points deduction for a breach from last season, when they were relegated from the top flight.

The UK government has already reaffirmed its commitment to introducing an independent regulator for English football, which would be a standalone body to rule over existing competition authorities.

That move is welcomed by Maguire, who believes the additional form of governance would protect the future of clubs and have the best interests of fans in mind.

"I think [English football's independent regulator] is going to cover a variety of issues, some of which, I think it's fair to say, are easy wins," academic, broadcaster and author Maguire said. 

"The setting up of fan advisory boards, who will potentially have the right to a golden share in the club, would give them the ability to veto a change of the club's home shirt [for example].

"[That] is always a very emotive issue as far as clubs are concerned."

A plethora of clubs have suffered from lacklustre ownership across the English Football League in recent years, with League One side Reading the current strugglers under Dai Yongge's stewardship.

Former Premier League side Derby County also went into administration in 2021 owing to ownership struggles and they remain in League One after a downturn in performances on the pitch following off-field issues.

Maguire insists an independent regulator could somewhat avoid these issues, adding: "It's likely that there's going to be a series of tests to make sure that prospective owners are of appropriate, good character and have sufficient funding."

Funding remains a topic of discussion at English football's top table, too, with the Premier League still negotiating financial deals with the English Football League (EFL).

Maguire believes if agreements between the two competitions over lucrative financial rewards cannot be agreed, the regulator would serve a purpose as an independent and unbiased adjudicator.

"I think this is why the Premier League have been so against the idea of the regulator due to its ability to determine a financial agreement between the Premier League and the rest of football," he added.

"We've seen the Premier League reject the proposals for the EFL to have 25 per cent of the overall TV deal. The Premier League has rejected the EFL's desire for the abolition of parachute payments.

"Could the regulator step in? My understanding is that it would much rather Richard Masters and Rick Parry corral both their sets of troops and come to an agreement.

"But it is prepared to say, 'Well, if you fail to do that, then we will step in and be a decider of last resort'."

Albania coach Sylvinho looked up to Arsene Wenger as his inspiration, while he hailed Pep Guardiola as a "genuis".

Sylvinho did not have much success during spells in charge of Lyon in France and Corinthians in his homeland of Brazil, but has excelled in his first job as a national team manager.

He took over Albania's national team at the start of 2023, and guided them to the Euro 2024 qualification. It is just the second time the Balkan nation have progressed to the finals of UEFA's flagship competition, and his efforts saw him rewarded with the Golden Decoration of the Eagle by Albania's prime minister.

Sylvinho lost just one of his opening eight games as Albania coach, with that defeat coming in his first match against Poland, though his side did slip to a 3-0 friendly defeat to Chile on Friday.

His success, though, should perhaps not come as a surprise given who the 49-year-old played under during his time at Arsenal and then Barcelona.

Sylvinho said to Stats Perform: "Outside Brazil, my first manager was Arsene Wenger. I learnt a lot from him, he was a person of a very high level in terms of management, education, football and vision. 

"I had the chance to work with [Frank] Rijkaard at Barcelona, he's a great manager too. I finished the 2008-2009 season with a treble and [Pep] Guardiola was the coach. 

"He was another coach I learnt a lot from. He's a genius. He's different. And you learn a lot from him too."

Before moving to Europe, Sylvinho spent time with Corinthians, where he developed under Nelsinho Baptista and Vanderlei Luxemburgo.

Sylvinho added: "Nelsinho Baptista was a coach I worked with for a while at Corinthians. He was a very competitive coach, with a great sense of humour and a very serious line-up, as was his entire career. 

" In 1998, we were Brazilian champions and made a leap forward technically as a team, and I also saw myself in one of the best moments of my time as a professional footballer.

"Vanderlei Luxemburgo was our coach. We had a very technical team, very well-adjusted on the pitch, and very well-coordinated."

The Premier League risks losing credibility in the face of points deductions for financial breaches, according to football finance expert Kieran Maguire.

Everton and Nottingham Forest have received points deductions of six and four respectively this season for breaches of the Premier League's profit and sustainability rules (PSR).

Forest received a deduction on Monday, which left them in the relegation zone, a point behind 17th-placed Luton Town, after they admitted a breach of the rules.

Everton, meanwhile, were initially deducted 10 points in November for a breach of the rules in the 2021-22 reporting period, before that was reduced to six on appeal. The Toffees sit 16th, having not won in 11 league matches, though Sean Dyche's team might yet have to grapple with another deduction, with the club having been charged with a breach in the 2022-23 financial reporting period.

Maguire fears for the Premier League's reputation in response to the deductions, with Championship side Leicester City also charged by the league on Thursday for PSR breaches during their time in the top flight, while Manchester City are facing 115 charges for potential financial discrepancies. Chelsea are under investigation for potential off-book dealings, while the Blues could be under pressure to sell players before the end of June in order to come under the threshold in their next set of accounts.

"I think the credibility of the Premier League as an organisation which is capable of governing itself has taken quite a few knocks recently," Maguire told Stats Perform.

"There is now news coming out that the independent regulator bill, the football governance bill, will be placed before parliament. That's a further blow to the Premier League in terms of its ability to be seen as a self-governing organisation.

"The Premier League hasn't come out of these cases particularly well. You wait years and years for a PSR judgement and then you get two in two months. Then we've got the Manchester City case which is probably going to take another 12 months."

Maguire joked: "You've got people outside the stadium that won't be selling programs and shirts, they'll be selling asterisks because there is so much uncertainty."

Maguire also explained that perceived superior cooperation with the Premier League from Forest is the reason for their smaller deduction compared to Everton, despite the midlands club having overspent by £34.5million, compared to the Toffees' breach of £19.5m.

He said: "Forest have been given a three-point penalty for breaking the rules, and another three points for going so far over the limit.

"But because Forest has cooperated and made the life of the commission relatively straightforward, we're going to effectively knock off two points for good behaviour. So that's why we've ended up with this final deduction of four points compared to Everton's six."

Maguire also pointed out that Forest did have other circumstances to contend with.

"Anybody that follows football knows that Forest were promoted with effectively six or seven players remaining in the squad because players were out of contract, a lot of players on loan. Therefore, they had to spend a lot of money on recruitment," he said.

"Their argument also is that if you want to survive in the Premier League, and survival was just as hard as getting there in the first place, then you've got to spend money. They've done that."

When asked if Forest could see their penalty reduced in the same way Everton's has been, Maguire replied: "I think if we have a look at the Everton appeal, that was reduced from 10 points to six on points of law.

"The second commission said that the initial commission brought accounted for tariff factors, which weren't actually in the Premier League rules, and therefore the initial penalty was too harsh. Whether Forest can do the same, I'm uncertain. 

"Forest have got seven days to have an appeal and we could be left in the pretty awful scenario that the appeal is heard in late April, then the verdict is announced four or five days after the end of the season. I think the integrity of the game would be tarnished if we do end up in that situation."

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is unlikely to retain his position next season, so says David James. 

The Red Devils sit sixth in the Premier League table after a mixed campaign, with some calling for Ten Hag to be replaced following a series of underwhelming performances and a group-stage Champions League exit.

However, United claimed a morale-boosting victory on Sunday when Amad Diallo scored in the 121st minute to snatch a 4-3 win, after extra time, over Liverpool in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

But with INEOS owner Jim Ratcliffe, whose purchase of a 27.7 per cent stake in the club was ratified earlier this year, having taken charge of football operations, James believes Ten Hag will not be part of the hierarchy next year. 

"I think traditionally with United, the manager's job is solely dependent on qualification in the Champions League," James told Stats Perform.

"I don't think they're going to qualify for the Champions League. I don't think [he’ll] be there next year on that basis to start with.

"I hear him talk about good performances when they lose games or good parts in losing matches and I think this doesn't sound like Manchester United.

"I've got nothing against the person as an individual, of course, but as a manager, I'm not hearing from him what I think I should be hearing about Manchester United, who are one of the biggest clubs in the world. So next season, I don't think he'll be there, as simple as that."

Ten Hag's side lost 3-1 in the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium earlier this month, having held a 1-0 lead going into half-time courtesy of a Marcus Rashford stunner. 

When asked for his thoughts on that performance, James said: "I watched them. I was at the Manchester derby and it's probably one of the worst games I've seen United play.

"I know they were leading 1-0 but the last shot in the game was in the 23rd minute. That was a wonderful strike but you would argue a slightly fortuitous strike by Marcus Rashford. They were poor, very, very poor. This isn't what I expect from United.

"I was doing the commentary and saying – I think it was 60-odd minutes, 65 – how is this still one all? How is this game still a draw? I just couldn't make any sense."

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 www.chicagobears.com and https://nyjetsinuk.com/girls-flag.

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.

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