Europe

Six months after winning La Liga, Bernd Schuster has been sacked by Real Madrid. Phil Ball thinks it was always a mismatch

And so Bernie Schuster is gone – he of the porn moustache and the Pringle sweaters. Sacked by Real Madrid, by “mutual agreement” five days before the clásico at the Camp Nou, he has walked off after 18 months with a paltry €7 million (£6.6m), and is currently taking calls on his mobile for his next job, from the leafy confines of Madrid’s swankiest golf course.

We take playing international football in England for granted but as Steve Menary explains it can be a long fight to be gifted that right

When West Ham signed Valon Behrami from Lazio this summer, he became the club’s first ever Swiss international. His status may change on December 19, when FIFA meet for a second time to consider a membership application from Kosovo, where Behrami was born in 1985.

Russia has surprise new champions, from the Islamic region of Tatarstan. James Appell reports on Rubin Kazan's year of glory

When the Russian championship entered its mid-season break in May after 11 rounds, the unheralded Rubin Kazan sat atop the table. Rubin had taken many by surprise by winning their first seven matches, but few gave them any chance of remaining at the top once the season resumed in late July. In addition, during the break Rubin were rocked by the arrest of sporting director Rustem Saymanov, in connection with a triple murder committed in 1996. Then, straight after the restart, Rubin had five successive draws. The tide seemed to be turning.

French football is in need of a financial facelift and, writes James Eastham, they've come up with a familiar looking scheme

Raymond Domenech’s questionable managerial abilities made 2008 an awful year for France’s national team, but in November the state of the club game became the source of most navel-gazing tension, with the publication of the Besson Report. Written by politician Eric Besson and commissioned by national rugby coach-turned-sports minister Bernard Laporte, it was a seven-month study into how to make French football more competitive.

A spate of death threats, with bullets sent in the post, is hurting the image of football in Holland. Derek Brookman reports

Many people, if asked to choose an appropriate adjective for Dutch society, would plump for “tolerant”. We all know about the views on prostitution and soft drugs, and the country also has a centuries-old tradition of welcoming those deemed not to ­conform elsewhere.

A desire for independence is leaving Moldovan football strong hold Transdniestria isolated, writes Mark Gilbey

It’s almost the midway point in Moldova’s Divisia Nationala and one team is way out in front, as always. League leaders Sheriff Tiraspol have won the past eight Moldovan championships despite being based in Transdniestria, a pro-Russian separatist state in this country that used to be part of the Soviet Union.

Dermot Corrigan on the sad fate of Drogheda, after they nearly knocked Dynamo Kiev out of the Champions League

In August, Irish champions Drogheda United came within inches of eliminating Dynamo Kiev from the Champions League. Midfielder Shane Robinson saw his injury-time cross-shot diverted on to a post by Kiev keeper Taras Lutsenko, before the ball agonisingly rolled across the goalline with no Drogheda player on hand to tap home. Minutes earlier Adam Hughes had somehow fired over an open goal from six yards. The rattled Ukrainians held out to sneak through 4-3, then hammered Spartak Moscow 8-2 on aggregate to seal their place in the group stages. Drogheda were left ruing what might have been.

France’s national anthem was booed once more, before a game with Tunisia, provoking a political storm. Andy Brassell reports

Politicians pronounce themselves shocked by a great many things, but this was certainly one of the least shocking. The real surprise was not the whistling from the stands at the Stade de France that met the traditional rendition of La Marseillaise before the friendly against Tunisia on Tuesday, October 14, but the fact that it raised so much as an eyebrow anywhere in the country.

Directors of football are a little-loved breed. Paul Joyce looks at changing attitudes in Germany, where despite successes many clubs now have doubts

Kevin Keegan is hardly unfamiliar with outside interference in managerial affairs. His move to Hamburger SV in May 1977 was engineered by one of the Bundesliga’s first general managers, Dr Peter Krohn. A football layman who saw sport as “show business”, Krohn changed HSV’s blue shirts to pink to attract female customers and made the team ride into the stadium on elephants. Viewing himself as more important in the club hierarchy than “overvalued” coaches with “insufficient school education”, Krohn’s meddling meant that HSV finished only tenth in Keegan’s first season.

There’s very little entente cordiale between the presidents of Marseille and Lyon. James Eastham examines their latest row

Some transfer sagas leave no trace; Hatem Ben Arfa’s summer move from Lyon to Marseille does not fall into that category. The 21-year-old attacker’s transfer marked a new low point in the increasingly fractious relations between the clubs. The sticking point was a contractual clause stating Lyon had to pay Ben Arfa €1.5 million (£1.19m) if they sold him. Instead of reaching an amicable agreement, Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas and his counter­part at Marseille, Pape Diouf, used it as an excuse to verbally beat each other up over a deal for the second time in three years.

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