Europe

The Andorra national team faces a number of challenges, from a lack of players to grumpy British pundits. James Calder explains

Andorra’s latest stab at World Cup qualifying was a familiar exercise in damage limitation, the principality’s low expectations largely being met when they failed to pick up a single point in finishing bottom of Group Six.

Last season's Dutch champions are having a radically different campaign this year. Derek Brookman looks at an economic crisis

When PSV hammered Ajax 6-2 on April 19 this year, AZ Alkmaar became Dutch champions by default; the Amsterdam side could no longer catch AZ at the top of the table. They were many reasons for this monumental event – the first title not to go to Ajax, Feyenoord or PSV for 28 years – but without doubt the biggest was Dick Scheringa.

A phone-tapping scandal has reached into most aspects of Italian society and football in particular. Matthew Barker listens in

Christian Vieri announced his retirement from football last month in typically gruff and to-the-point fashion. “I’ve had enough. I don’t want to do it any more,” he told journalists at the Milan Palace of Justice. Vieri was in court to give evidence against Inter, one of his 11 former clubs who he’s suing for €21 million (£18.7m) along with Telecom Italia (€9m from the former, €12m from the latter) after they apparently authorised the tapping of his private phone calls during a two-year period from 2002-04.

A plan to make fans in Italy carry ID cards has met opposition at all levels. Paul Virgo explains

When interior minister Roberto Maroni announced on a roasting August 15 bank holiday that next year Italian fans will need special club ID cards to see away games, the plan got a fittingly heated response. Ultras throughout Italy united in expressing outrage at the tessera del tifoso and their intention to fight it. The innovation brought the volcanic best out of Palermo chairman Maurizio Zamparini, who described it as “a police system, Fascist, a measure that goes against liberty”.

National tensions are expressing themselves through Belgium's two biggest clubs. John Chapman looks at the latest instalment

Anderlecht’s Marcin Wasilewski has twice made the front cover of Belgium’s leading football magazine in recent weeks: once when he was using his elbows to great effect against Standard Liège and then being stretchered off against the same club.

Having acquired sporting representatives in Austria and the US, Red Bull have turned to Germany. Paul Joyce assesses the fallout

No city exemplifies the decline of East German football since reunification more starkly than Leipzig. Lokomotive Leipzig, European Cup-Winners Cup finalists in 1987, went bankrupt in 2004 and had to restart at the bottom of the league pyramid. They now play in the same fifth division as former GDR champions Sachsen Leipzig, who entered insolvency in March with debts of €3 million (£2.7m).

League restructuring in Italy has been discussed for several years but it is now coming to fruition. Paul Virgo reports

After a long fight to save their marriage, Serie B finally accepted it had irreconcilably broken down in August and agreed to an amicable divorce from the Italian top flight. Serie A chairmen had been threatening to walk out for years, as they looked on at the Premier League’s success with envy, only to end up half-heartedly agreeing to give it another try. But they showed they meant business this time when they appointed Maurizio Beretta, an executive from outside football, to run the top flight as an independent entity from next year.

Saul Pope looks at the relationship between short-term solution, long-term planning and nationality in Russian football

Considering he was sacked by his club following a series of disappointing results, the warm send-off Dick Advocaat received from Zenit St Petersburg fans was unusual and pleasantly surprising. In a league where managers from outside the former USSR have struggled to make a serious impact and many have been fired within a few months, his achievements with Zenit should also not be underestimated.

Relegation, a much-loathed owner and an uncertain future. Dermot Corrigan examines troubled times at Real Betis

Since Real Betis’s relegation on goal difference on the last day of last season, the club’s fans have been directing waves of anger and frustration at the club’s majority shareholder Manuel Lopera.

Marseille's late owner has left the club with a legacy of big investment but underachievement, as James Eastham reports

Did Robert Louis-Dreyfus die an unhappy man? In his role as owner of Olympique de Marseille, he was certainly unfulfilled. The Franco-Swiss billionaire (rated the fifth richest man in France this year, with a family fortune of €7 billion) passed away on July 4, 2009, succumbing to the leukemia he had suffered from for more than a decade. He became OM’s owner on December 14, 1996 but failed to win a single trophy during his 12-and-a-half-year reign. Marseille came close on several occasions – runners-up in the French League three times (1999, 2007 and 2009) and losing finalists in the UEFA Cup (1999 and 2004) and French Cup (2006 and 2007) – but are still seeking their first piece of silverware since 1993.

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