Steven Gerrard says Rangers were close to perfect as they claimed an important victory over Brondby in the Europa League.

First-half goals from Leon Balogun and Kemar Roofe sealed a 2-0 win at Ibrox – and the hosts' first points of this season's competition.

That helped Gerrard's team move off the bottom of Group A at the halfway stage, while closing the gap on second-placed Sparta Prague to just a single point.

The Rangers boss admitted the pressure was on his side, who began their campaign with defeats against Sparta and runaway leaders Lyon.

But he was ultimately delighted with the way his players rose to the occasion on Thursday.

"I thought it was a strong home performance in Europe," Gerrard told BT Sport.

"We've kick-started our Europa League campaign. The first two results haven't been good enough, which put a lot of pressure on us tonight.

"But we've got to go and replicate this performance and result [away at Brondby] in a couple of weeks' time.

"I thought the fans were magnificent. The game plan we set out to do, the players have delivered.

"It's really close to the performance we're looking for. 

"We've played well for halves and 60 minutes, but tonight was really close to a perfect 90-minute performance."

Gerrard also hailed the display of Joe Aribo, who provided a constant threat to the reigning Danish Superliga champions with his pace and power.

No Rangers player was involved in more duels (15) than the winger, who also completed 58 of his 62 passes and only James Tavernier (111) among the hosts' team bettered his tally of 93 touches.

The 25-year-old has recently been linked with a move away from Ibrox, with Gerrard admitting it will be difficult to retain his services should he continue to perform to a high level. 

"He's a great kid; he wants to learn and he wants to grow," the Rangers boss added.

"What I've said to Joe is: 'you're a much better player when you play angry in a nice way. You're a big strong lad; go and put yourself about' and when he does, he's a joy to watch.

"I thought his first 45-minute performance was outstanding. That's probably the reason why he tired a little bit, but he's played a lot and he's been away on international duty [with Nigeria]. 

"But if he can find that performance consistently over 90 minutes, we'll be lucky to keep hold of him."

UEFA will not open a disciplinary case against Sparta Prague after finding insufficient evidence of discriminatory behaviour in their Europa League match with Rangers.

The game, won 1-0 by the Scottish champions, was originally due to be played behind closed doors following the racist abuse of Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni in August but around 10,000 school children and accompanying adults were allowed to attend.

The contest was marred by the booing of Rangers' black players, with Glen Kamara seemingly subjected to particularly vocal taunts.

Last March, UEFA ruled Kamara had been the victim of a racist slur from Ondrej Kudela in Rangers' fixture against Sparta's Czech rivals Slavia Prague.

However, following an investigation by a UEFA Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector, European football's governing body said no further action would be taken.

A statement confirmed: "In accordance with Article 31(4) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, a UEFA Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector was appointed to conduct a disciplinary investigation regarding potential discriminatory incidents which allegedly occurred during the 2021-22 UEFA Europa League group stage match between AC Sparta Prague and Rangers FC played on September 30, 2021.
 
"The investigation has now concluded that there was insufficient evidence of racism or discriminatory conduct at the match to warrant the opening of disciplinary proceedings against AC Sparta Prague."

After the game, Sparta issued a statement to insist any allegations of racism were unfounded.

"It is absolutely unbelievable that after a match we have to watch innocent children being attacked and face unfounded accusations of racism," the club said. 

"You are describing the behaviour of children incorrectly, arrogating to yourself the right to judge the expression of emotions of six-year-old children who have no idea what racism is. It's an impertinence."

Demba Ba sprinting clear of Steven Gerrard to score in front of the Kop remains one of the Premier League's defining images – and now Jose Mourinho's pre-match rallying message has been revealed.

The 2013-14 season looked set to give Gerrard the crowning moment of his Liverpool career, but his slip in the 36th game of the Reds' campaign allowed Ba in to score and put Chelsea on the way to a famous 2-0 win at Anfield.

Liverpool had 73 per cent of possession that day and led the shot count 26 to 11, but two errors leading to goals were immensely costly and proved a huge turning point in the title race. Willian scored the second late on.

The result blew open the title race, ending Liverpool's 11-game winning run in the league, and when Brendan Rodgers' side squandered a 3-0 lead at Crystal Palace to draw their penultimate game, it was clear it would be Manchester City's title.

Mourinho's Chelsea finished third, and the Portuguese's cheeky message to his players before the Liverpool game will go down as one of his mind-game masterstrokes.

"I remember Jose saying: 'They think we’re a Mickey Mouse team! But we will show them!' And we went out fighting," Ba told The Athletic.

"I was up against Martin Skrtel and Mama [Mamadou Sakho] and I played an unbelievable game."

Ba also played for West Ham and Newcastle United in the Premier League, but the game that will last longest in the memory is that outing for Chelsea on Merseyside.

"I only realised how big a deal that was a couple of years later, when people still talked about it," Ba said. "They still talk about it! It was traumatic for them. But we didn't enjoy the fact that we killed their dream, we simply enjoyed winning."

Gerrard left Liverpool a year later, the club's captain finishing without a Premier League title.

From 2007-08 until the end of his Reds career, Gerrard only made three errors leading to goals in the Premier League, according to Opta. The one that gifted Ba his goal was the midfielder's first such mistake in four years.

He is now manager of Rangers, while Mourinho is head coach of Roma.

Ba, as much as he appreciated Gerrard as a footballer, sees no reason to be sorry about his influence on the former England skipper having the trophy gap on his career record.

"No, not really. Because that's the game," Ba said. "You make errors and others take advantage. What Steven Gerrard has done for the world of football is tremendous. But this is life, unfortunately. Not all stories can end in fairytales."

In the hours after the takeover of Newcastle United was confirmed, Steve Bruce admitted he would not be surprised to lose his job.

The former Manchester United defender has rarely been too popular in his two years at St James' Park, and with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) and their astonishing financial might now in control of things, fans are expecting a more high-profile candidate to lead the first team.

While Bruce is expected to have talks with the new owners next week, there are suggestions he could leave his role before the home game with Tottenham on October 17.

Who might be chosen to lead the Magpies into their new era of promise? Stats Perform looks at some of the favourites.

 

Antonio Conte

Having left Inter at the end of last season, Conte represents an ideal choice for Newcastle: an elite coach with Premier League experience who is presently a free agent.

Conte won the 2016-17 Premier League title with Chelsea and the FA Cup the following year. He won 50 of his first 73 games in charge in England's top flight, a record bettered only by Jose Mourinho (50 wins in 63) and Pep Guardiola (50 wins in 69) at the time.

The Italian then ended Inter's decade-long wait for the Scudetto before walking out before this season, highlighting the risk that comes with appointing such a volatile coach. Still, back his demands in the transfer market and it will usually pay dividends in the short term. If Newcastle's owners are after a statement of intent, there are not too many better candidates.

 

Brendan Rodgers

Rodgers was tipped for the Tottenham job when Mourinho left but was apparently committed to Leicester City. However, recent reports have suggested he could be tempted by the project now developing at Newcastle.

The former Liverpool boss has done extremely well with Leicester, with back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the league and a brilliant FA Cup triumph last term, but he has perhaps taken the Foxes as far as he realistically can. Indeed, while fifth place cannot be snubbed at, Leicester held a spot in the top four for the majority of the previous two seasons, while they have had an indifferent start to this term.

Rodgers would also offer Newcastle fans the kind of attractive football they will be craving for the new era.

Steven Gerrard

According to reports, Gerrard is keeping a close eye on developments at St James' Park and would be a welcome choice among supporters given his pedigree as a Premier League player.

Last season, the ex-Liverpool captain led Rangers to the Scottish title without losing a single game, and they are on course to defend that crown after a promising start to 2021-22.

Gerrard would be more of a gamble than some of the more experienced candidates, but he has arguably earned the opportunity.

 

Roberto Martinez

Barcelona were said to be trying to work out how they could afford to replace Ronald Koeman with Martinez last month, although the former is keeping his job for now.

After watching Belgium give up a 2-0 lead to lose to France in the Nations League semi-finals, a deeply frustrated Martinez accused his side of throwing away five years of work, adding fuel to rumours that he feels his time with the Red Devils is coming to an end.

Martinez sprung a shock by winning the FA Cup with Wigan Athletic in 2013, although his commitment to attacking football could not keep them in the division and his Everton spell ended in disappointment after an initially bright start. But he said only this week to Goal that his ideal next job was a long-term project and that it "doesn't matter where it might be in the world".

Eddie Howe

Despite being considered for the Celtic job, Howe surprisingly remains unattached since leaving Bournemouth, the club he helped to lead from England's fourth tier to the Premier League.

Like Martinez, Howe won praise for the attractive football he was able to coax out of relatively unheralded players, although he too could not quite master the balance between positive play and defensive discipline, with Bournemouth relegated in 2019-20.

There was also criticism of Bournemouth's transfer spending during Howe's time in the Premier League: Dominic Solanke, signed for roughly £19m from Liverpool in 2019, only scored three times in 42 appearances in the top flight (although his Championship form since has been much improved).

 

Rafael Benitez

The return of Benitez would undoubtedly be welcomed by Newcastle fans, who generally hold him in high esteem following his three years at the club before his move to China.

Despite failing to save them from relegation in 2016-17, the Spaniard was considered a top-drawer coach who was hamstrung by the ownership of Mike Ashley and a lack of significant investment in the squad. After winning the Championship in 2017, Newcastle finished 10th in their first season back in the top flight but only 13th in the following two campaigns.

Prising him away from Everton would be neither easy nor cheap, but his experience of winning big trophies and his relationship with the supporters would arguably make him the most popular choice as manager.

UEFA has launched an investigation into alleged "discriminatory incidents" in Sparta Prague's Europa League clash with Rangers.

The fixture, which the Scottish Premiership champions won 1-0, was originally due to be played behind closed doors following the racist abuse of Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni in August but around 10,000 school children and accompanying adults were allowed to attend.

The match last Thursday was marred by the booing of Rangers' black players, with Glen Kamara seemingly subjected to particularly vocal taunts.

Last March, UEFA ruled Kamara had been the victim of a racist slur from Ondrej Kudela in Rangers' fixture against Sparta's Czech rivals Slavia Prague.

European football's governing body said in a statement on Tuesday: "In accordance with Article 31(4) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, a UEFA Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector has been appointed to conduct a disciplinary investigation regarding potential discriminatory incidents allegedly occurring during the 2021/22 UEFA Europa League group stage match between AC Sparta Praha and Rangers FC played on 30 September 2021."

Following the fixture, Gers boss Steven Gerrard called for harsher punishments to tackle incidents of racism.

"Sadly, these things keep raising their head far too often and, unfortunately, the punishments are not severe enough," Gerrard said.

Sparta released a statement in response, claiming that the actions of the children watching had been misunderstood and that allegations of racism were wide of the mark.

"It is absolutely unbelievable that after a match we have to watch innocent children being attacked and face unfounded accusations of racism," the statement said. 

"You are describing the behaviour of children incorrectly, arrogating to yourself the right to judge the expression of emotions of six-year-old children who have no idea what racism is. It's an impertinence."

Steven Gerrard called for tougher punishments to tackle racism after Glen Kamara was booed during Rangers' 1-0 defeat against Sparta Prague in the Europa League.

The midfielder was the subject of what UEFA declared to be "racist behaviour" by Ondrej Kudela, who plays for neighbouring Slavia Prague in April, before being subjected to more reported abuse in Thursday's game.

The crowd was restricted to children and their chaperones after Sparta were sanctioned by UEFA for racially abusing Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni, but Gerrard admitted he could hear the booing after watching a replay of the game.

"I'm fully aware now [of the booing] having watched the game back with audio and I'm actually surprised I wasn't aware of it during the game," Gerrard told reporters on Friday.

"Sadly, these things keep raising their head far too often and, unfortunately, the punishments are not severe enough."

Sparta responded with a statement in which they defended their young fans, insisting their actions had been misinterpreted while stating the match will be remembered positively in the club's history.

"It is absolutely unbelievable that after a match we have to watch innocent children being attacked and face unfounded accusations of racism," the statement said. "Insulting children on the internet and in the media is unacceptable, desperate and ridiculous.

"Stop attacking our children! Our club will proudly defend our children - our future and our pride. Slandering children on the internet is extremely cowardly.

"We are seeing unprecedented xenophobic statements against the Czech Republic, its citizens and even its children on social media.

"You are describing the behaviour of children incorrectly, arrogating to yourself the right to judge the expression of emotions of six-year-old children who have no idea what racism is. It's an impertinence.

"This match will go down in the club's history in a positive sense. We ask the representatives of Rangers to do their part to stop the xenophobic atmosphere directed towards our children, our beautiful country and its inhabitants."

Steven Gerrard's 50th European match as a manager ended in defeat as Rangers were beaten 2-0 by Lyon in their Europa League opener.

Having reached the last 16 in each of the previous two Europa League campaigns, Rangers were looking to make home advantage count against what look set to be their toughest rivals in Group A.

But Lyon – whose previous European match was a Champions League semi-final defeat to Bayern Munich in 2020 – had too much quality on Thursday.

Karl Toko Ekambi's 23rd-minute stunner put Lyon ahead, with James Tavernier's own goal condemning Rangers to their first ever Europa League group stage defeat at Ibrox.

Connor Goldson could easily have been dismissed for a reckless challenge on Toko Ekambi in the 13th minute as Lyon settled quicker, though the visiting forward showed no signs of being hindered with an exceptional opener.

Having been given time to approach the area, Toko Ekambi fooled John Lundstram with some fine footwork before curling a sublime finish across Allan McGregor and into the bottom-right corner.

Joe Aribo stinging the palms of Anthony Lopes sparked the home crowd into life, and Lundstram almost atoned for his part in Lyon's opener with a low strike that flashed inches wide.

Lopes had to be at his best to keep Ryan Kent, though Islam Slimani might have put Lyon 2-0 up on the stroke of half-time had he connected with Malo Gusto's cross.

Yet Lyon struck again early in the second half. Rangers were cut open by Lucas Paqueta's pass and though Slimani's effort was blocked, the rebound bounced in off the unfortunate Tavernier.

Tavernier was inches away from dragging Rangers back into it with a superb free-kick, only for the post to come to Lyon's rescue as Gerrard's milestone match in Europe proved a disappointing one.

What does it mean? Ibrox no fortress for Rangers

Of his 50 European matches in charge, Gerrard has won 25, drawn 16 and lost nine, with his team conceding 48 times in total.

Rangers had never lost a Europa League group game at Ibrox before Thursday's defeat, though including qualifiers, they have now lost three of their past four home matches in European competition, and Gerrard will need to find a way to turn that around if they are to mount a challenge in this tournament.

Toko Ekambi's quality shines through

With Memphis Depay now at Barcelona, Toko Ekambi – who scored 14 Ligue 1 goals last season – has the chance to assert himself as a major threat for Lyon this season.

He had failed to score in his five Ligue 1 appearances prior to the trip to Glasgow, but his finish – from one of his two attempts – was a sign of the quality the former Villarreal forward has in his locker. It could well kick-start his campaign.

Goldson caught cold

Just back from injury, Goldson looked way off the pace at the centre of Rangers' defence, with his early booking for a lunge on Toko Ekambi limiting his impact even further. 

He was still typically combative, winning possession back on seven occasions – a joint team-high – but it often looked as though Slimani had the beating of him.

What's next?

Rangers are back at Ibrox on Sunday, hosting Motherwell, while Lyon face the small task of an away trip to Paris Saint-Germain in their next Ligue 1 outing.

Rangers suffered Champions League disappointment as Antonio-Mirko Colak's brace ensured 10-man Malmo ran out 4-2 aggregate winners in the third qualifying round tie.

Steven Gerrard's side started brilliantly in the second leg after suffering a 2-1 defeat in Sweden last week, drawing level through Alfredo Morelos' opener before Bonke Innocent was sent off for two bookings in the space of five minutes.

The tide seemed to have turned in the hosts' favour, but Colak delivered a second-half shock to secure a 2-1 win in the return fixture in Glasgow.

Buoyed on by a vocal Ibrox crowd, Morelos flicked a deft header past Johan Dahlin from Ryan Kent's inswinging cross to level the tie after 18 minutes.

Allan McGregor escaped with a caution after he was deemed to have handled outside his area, though Malmo's Innocent did not get off so lightly – the midfielder receiving a contentious second booking for a challenge on Connor Goldson.

Morelos blasted a glorious second-half opportunity over and the forward was made to pay when Colak smashed past McGregor to restore the Swedish side's advantage.

A long throw-in was enough to tee up Colak's second, the forward spinning past two defenders before hooking a low finish past the despairing dive of McGregor.

Ludogorets, who knocked out Olympiacos, now stand between Malmo and the group stage. Rangers, in contrast, have to turn their attentions to a Europa League qualifier against Kairat Almaty or Alashkert.

Rangers face a fight to keep their Champions League campaign alive following a 2-1 defeat to Malmo.

Steven Gerrard's men came unstuck in the first leg of the third qualifying round tie, conceding two goals in the space of three second-half minutes.

Veljko Birmancevic was the star man for the hosts, who continued their momentum having come through the first two rounds of qualifying.

Birmancevic's right-wing cross was met with a brilliant 47th-minute volley from Soren Rieks to give the Swedish side the lead.

And two minutes later it was Birmancevic who doubled the advantage, slotting in off the post after pouncing on a defensive error from Connor Goldson.

A last-gasp deflected strike from Steven Davis gave Rangers hope for the second leg.

Yet, with the scrapping of the away goals rule, Rangers still need to score at least twice to guarantee progression to the playoff round.

 

Speculation has swirled for months about the future of Lionel Messi following a season of change at Barcelona.

Barca have been busy already this off-season, signing Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.

Compatriot Aguero had implored Messi to extend his Barcelona stay, which dates back to 2000, and it seems the striker may get his wish.

 

TOP STORY - MESSI RE-COMMITS TO CATALANS

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi is set to pen a new two-year contract with Barcelona, according to AS.

The Argentina forward has practically agreed to the deal, with only "structural details" to complete.

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have both shown interest in Messi but he looks set to commit until 2023.

 

ROUND-UP

- Everton are in the market for a new manager after Carlo Ancelotti's sudden departure and The Athletic reports they will consider Rangers boss and Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard. TalkSPORT claims ex-Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo is also on their radar.

- COPE claims that new Real Madrid boss Ancelotti will not push to recruit James Rodriguez from the Italian's former club Everton.

- The Sun reports that Arsenal are in pole position in the race to sign Raheem Sterling from Manchester City. 

- The Sun also claims any potential Sterling move to Arsenal may scupper Manchester City's plans to sign Tottenham's Harry Kane , as they want to use the winger in a swap deal given Spurs hefty asking price.

- Manchester United are keen on Sevilla defender Jules Kounde but Barcelona have joined the pursuit for his signature, claims Mundo Deportivo.

Rangers ended their triumphant Scottish Premiership season undefeated thanks to a thumping 4-0 win over Aberdeen.

A Joe Lewis own goal put Steven Gerrard's champions ahead at Ibrox, with a Kemar Roofe double and an effort from veteran striker Jermain Defoe completing a dominant victory that took the Glasgow giants up to 102 points.

Gerrard's side emphatically halted Celtic's bid for 10 consecutive top-flight crowns and, in going an entire campaign unbeaten, they matched the exploits of Brendan Rodgers' Bhoys in 2016-17.

Rangers' 55th Scottish title overall has proved to be a record-setting affair, with a miserly 13 goals conceded – one fewer that the previous best by Celtic back in 1913-14.

Despite Aberdeen's spirited efforts after half-time, Allan McGregor was able to keep a clean sheet – the Gers' 26th shutout this term to match Celtic's 107-year-old record.

Victory also meant a perfect return of 19 wins from 19 at Ibrox in 2020-21. That matched the feat achieved by Martin O'Neill's Celtic, who eventually chalked up 26 in succession at Parkhead between 2002 and 2004.

"It's been a while since I've had the smell of champagne. It's been so long I'm actually enjoying it," a sodden Gerrard told Sky Sports during the post-match celebrations.

"I'm so proud of the boys and all the staff around it, but the main thing is the supporters. I was asked to come here at a difficult time, it had been even more difficult before that.

"I have to pay my respects to the people who got it to the point where I took over. After that it was about having a vision, getting the right people in the right places, the right support from the board and fighting for it.

"We've fought every day for the last three years to get to this point."

Celtic concluded an utterly wretched season, that brought about the sacking of manager Neil Lennon, with a 0-0 draw at Hibernian to finish 25 points shy of their bitter rivals.

Iconic former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson put aside any anti-Liverpool agenda as he saluted the impacted Steven Gerrard has had on another of his old clubs, Rangers.

Gerrard played for United's bitter rivals Liverpool from 1998 to 2015, a period that coincided with Ferguson's glory years at Old Trafford, and was Reds captain for much of that time.

But despite their respective roles in one of English football's fiercest rivalries, Ferguson can appreciate the job Gerrard has done since trying his hand in management.

Gerrard took over at Rangers – with whom Ferguson spent two years as a player in the 1960s – in 2018, the club having been without a top-flight title since 2010-11. They had to start all over again in the third tier in 2012 after insolvency.

Rangers' great rivals Celtic went on to claim nine successive Scottish Premiership titles, but under Gerrard's guidance they ended the Bhoys' dominance this term, cruising to the crown in remarkable fashion.

They wrapped it up in early March having not lost a single game and, with two games left, are in with a chance of completing the campaign undefeated, a feat they have not managed since 1898-99.

And Ferguson, who won 16 top-flight titles with United and Aberdeen, has been impressed.

"Oh, he's done magnificent," Ferguson told the Guardian ahead of the release of a documentary about his life.

"He really has, both on and off the field. A press interview can lose you your job in management. But Steven's press conferences are fantastic.

"He's cool, he's composed, he gives the right answers. He's really top because it's an art."

Nevertheless, Ferguson stressed he has not exactly become an avid follower of Rangers in his retirement – he is only really bothered when it comes to one game in particular.

"The only time I really support Rangers is when they play Celtic. The big one," he added. "Jason [his son] is a Celtic fan.

"I love phoning him up when Rangers have beaten them. The funny thing is that the one team I always look for on Saturday night is Queen's Park, my first club.

"I had a great learning experience as a 16-year-old lad playing for them. People think it's an amateur team but you had to be tough to play for Queen's Park. That was a great foundation for me."

Tottenham's Jose Mourinho gamble has not paid off and once again Spurs find themselves at a crossroads with their next managerial appointment.

Installing Mourinho as boss, even with his astounding list of achievements, appeared a slightly bemusing decision considering the complete contrast between his pragmatic style and the more high-intensity football played by predecessor Mauricio Pochettino.

There were plenty of signs of promise, not least the 6-1 hammering of Mourinho's former employers Manchester United at Old Trafford in the infancy of a Premier League campaign that offered early promise of a title tilt.

But a run to the EFL Cup final has not done enough to assuage Spurs' hierarchy, who have decided to pull the trigger after a slump in form has left Tottenham seventh in the table, out of the Europa League and in serious jeopardy of missing out on Champions League football again.

So, 17 months after his appointment, Mourinho has been sacked. Here, we look at the potential candidates to replace the Portuguese.

JULIAN NAGELSMANN

Is there a more in-demand young coach in world football than RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann right now? Hansi Flick dropped a huge bombshell on the world of football when he announced on Saturday that he intends to leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season, with the German national team likely to be his next venture. Nagelsmann is thought to be Bayern's top target but reports in Germany suggest Leipzig will attempt to resist such a move, given it would considerably strengthen a rival. The 33-year-old has long-been linked to Tottenham, and the decision to wield the axe on Mourinho may have been prompted by Flick's announcement and the need to act fast to land a top target.

BRENDAN RODGERS

Another man whose name has been heavily linked with Tottenham is Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers, one of the most revered coaches in the Premier League. After falling agonisingly short of leading Liverpool to the Premier League title in the 2013-14 campaign, Rodgers departed Anfield in October 2015 and went on to enjoy an excellent period of success at Celtic. He has since turned Leicester into Champions League contenders over the past two seasons, playing an exciting brand of football at the same time. A potential stumbling block may be the fact his contract runs until 2025 but many believe Daniel Levy sees Rodgers as the man to lead Tottenham.

MASSIMILIANO ALLEGRI

Massimiliano Allegri is a name that crops up pretty much any time a vacancy becomes available at a big club across Europe, and it is not hard to see why. The Italian won five straight Serie A titles with Juventus, also lifting the Coppa Italia on four occasions during that golden period. With a top-flight title to his name during his time at Milan also on his resume, Allegri has proven to be a serial winner in the past. With the 53-year-old out of work, Allegri would provide a cheaper solution than others. His compatriot Maurizio Sarri, a Europa League winner with Chelsea, has also been touted – he too led Juventus to Serie A glory before being replaced by Andrea Pirlo ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

LEDLEY KING/RYAN MASON

It seems unlikely, but Spurs may decide to appoint from within. One option would be to instil former captain Ledley King, who made 268 Premier League appearances for Tottenham. Upon his retirement, King took up an ambassadorial role at the club and was appointed to Mourinho's coaching staff as first team assistant last August. Another who provides an internal option is Ryan Mason, who has been asked to take first-team training. The former England midfielder was forced to retire at the age of 26 after fracturing his skull and has been working in Tottenham's academy coaching set up.

GERRARD, BENITEZ AND OTHER OUTSIDERS

Even the best laid plans can go to waste and should luring Nagelsmann or Rodgers not come to fruition, several other interesting candidates have been mooted. Chief among them is Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, who has cut his managerial teeth at Rangers and ended Celtic's dominance in Scotland by leading the club to Scottish Premiership glory this season, while a 2-0 win over their Old Firm rivals on Sunday kept them in the hunt for Scottish Cup glory. Rafael Benitez, the man who Gerrard lifted the Champions League under at Liverpool, is another interesting name said to be in the running. The Spaniard has plenty of experience in England having managed the Reds, Chelsea and Newcastle United and is out of work having left Chinese side Dalian Professional back in January. Fulham boss Scott Parker, a former Tottenham midfielder, and ex-Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe have also been suggested as potential alternatives.

Alfredo Morelos finally broke his Old Firm duck, netting to give freshly crowned Scottish Premiership champions Rangers a 1-1 draw at Celtic.

Steven Gerrard's side dropped points for only the fifth time this season after Mohamed Elyounoussi put Celtic ahead, but Rangers remain undefeated in their top-flight campaign.

The usual hostilities were put aside during a show of pre-match unity from both teams, in response to Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara being allegedly subjected to racist abuse during their midweek Europa League defeat to Slavia Prague.

However, Morelos customarily ensured some of the old devilment remained when he scored in the league derby at the 13th time of asking – holding up 10 fingers in celebration to mock Celtic failing to a win a record-breaking 10th consecutive title this season.

Celtic, playing under caretaker manager John Kennedy, deserved their 23rd-minute breakthrough.

Callum McGregor slid a pass in behind Rangers right-back Leon Balogun and Odsonne Edouard's superb left-footed cross was matched by Elyounoussi's full-length diving header.

Edouard tormented Balogun and the rest of the Rangers defence at times, although referee Willie Collum adjudged him to have dived under a sprawling challenge from Borna Barisic and dished out a yellow card before the half hour.

Rangers were level in the 38th minute – Balogun atoning for his part in the opener by rising highest to meet Barisic's corner and leaving Morelos with the formality of nodding home unmarked at the far post.

That sparked a flurry of activity at both ends before half-time as Allan McGregor recovered to retrieve an Edouard effort that squirmed through his legs, before opposite number Scott Bain in the Celtic goal kept out a sublime Ryan Kent volley.

The champions continued to look vulnerable to set-pieces, with Elyounoussi and Stephen Welsh going close either side of the interval.

McGregor was equal to an Edouard long-ranger and then thwarted David Turnbull in the 72nd minute after the midfielder was played in by Ryan Christie.

Unsurprisingly, Edouard reacted quicker than any Rangers player to the resulting corner, but Gerrard's men kept their unbeaten league record intact.

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