Saul Pope explains the monetary chaos, calendar change and political factors affecting the Russian Premier League
The new Russian Premier League season will be different, but not in a way many fans hope. With the gulf between the big boys and the rest growing ever wider, the league is getting more predictable – the top places will go to Zenit St Petersburg, CSKA Moscow, Rubin Kazan and Spartak Moscow. The difference is in the length – 2011-12 is to be a transition season of 18 months' duration, with the season that follows swapping from the current spring-autumn calendar to, like much of Europe, an autumn-spring calendar.
Prolonged contract negotiations between players and clubs often end in ignominy, but recent events at League of Ireland club Bohemians had a lot more at stake than loss of face. Days before Christmas the club was served with a winding-up order by two players who, along with eight others, had been negotiating severance packages after Bohemians revealed they could not honour their contracts for next season and that they hoped to provide a budget in line with the FAI's licensing criteria.
Monday December 20 was one of the coldest nights of the year in Bergamo. Despite this, 1,400 hardy souls, me included, turned up for the last Serie B game of the calendar year, AlbinoLeffe v Piacenza. With Piacenza at the foot of the table and AlbinoLeffe perilously close to the relegation zone, an open, entertaining game was not expected. In fact we got a see-saw 3-3 draw.
Andy Brassell explains how a controversial move from Bordeaux to domestic rivals Lyon, alongside a reluctance to interact with the press, has found Yoann Gourcuff out of favour with many in France
Transfers between genuine domestic rivals are never especially clean affairs, and Yoann Gourcuff's late August move from one recent former French champion to another – Bordeaux to Lyon – is no exception. Three months on, the sensation has settled down and the man himself has started to find some form, but we're still gathering odd bits of scattered debris from the event.
This season Partizan Belgrade succeeded in qualifying for the group stage of the Champions League for the first time in six years, resulting in a mad scramble for tickets with supporters desperate to see their club compete against Europe's elite.
Derek Brookman discusses the possibility that Ajax's recent mediocrity may not just be a passing phase
When Martin Jol's Ajax embarked on a magnificent late-season run in the spring, winning their last 13 league matches in a row while scoring 47 times in the process, it seemed like – for the club's supporters at least – the natural order was being restored.
Dermot Corrigan lifts the lid on the civil action launched against former Barcelona owner Joan Laporta over the money he lost while at the club
Forcing unduly spendthrift owners or executives to repay club money they've squandered sounds like a dream for fans of many teams. But that's what might be about to happen at Barcelona. At a general assembly of club members on October 16, new Barça president Sandro Rosell outlined the immensity of the debt his predecessor Joan Laporta had left behind, and proposed Laporta be held responsible. Rosell abstained in the ensuing vote, but was unlikely to have been disappointed when the motion was passed. A civil action has been launched which could force Laporta to personally pay the club €48.7 million (£42.3m).
After the Polish public stopped believing scare stories about the relocation of Euro 2012 to Germany, Italy or France because of a lack of progress in our infrastructure, a blow came from an unexpected angle. All of a sudden we realised we don't have a team that will be able to compete in the Euros.
Following the security problems during Italy's abandoned international fixture against Serbia, Vanda Wilcox discusses how crowd safety and hooliganism is still a problem for the Italians
Before anyone in Italy knew his name or had even seen his face, Ivan Bogdanov had made himself instantly recognisable. Continuous TV footage and acres of newsprint were immediately dedicated to Bogdanov and his fellow hooligans, responsible for the violent disruption of Italy's European Championship qualifier against Serbia in Genoa on October 12.
By the time it was scrapped in 2008, the Intertoto Cup had little respect. In 1995, when English sides were first made to enter, it had even less. Owen Amos looks back at that first season
From 1961 to 1995, the Intertoto Cup was a summer tournament for mid-ranking, mainland European clubs. It offered pre-season football, modest prize money and – most importantly – kept the pools companies happy (Australian state league games having the same function here). By the mid-1990s, according to the November 1994 Intertoto newsletter – yes, there was one – the tournament was stagnating. The pools companies wanted better games, and bigger names. The organisers asked UEFA for help and, after some discussion, the Intertoto was made the fourth UEFA club competition.