Monthly Archives: March 2016

Important Steps To Get Fit For The Ski Slopes

Working Out Your Biomechanics

By training your body to move in an efficient way, you can be its own mechanic. Start by standing in front of a mirror (in shorts) with your feet parallel. Make sure you maintain a skiing position, and check the following.

Knees – Look at how your knees are lined up. Imagine there is a dot on the center of the knee cap. Now make a vertical line straight to the floor. Usually, this line should fall in a central position between the 2nd and 3rd toe. But in most persons, this line falls closer to the big toe or even on the floor between their feet.

Weight Distribution

A person’s weight should be balanced over the center of his/her skis. But most people would sit down putting excessive strain on the knees and quads muscles. This will take their weight into the back of the skis, which will cause loss of control.

While you keep the pelvis neutral, make sure you bend the knees into a skiing position. Now see where the hips are moving. Stand up again, and now bend the knees while the weight is coming forward, similar to when you are going to tip over. You should not place any bodyweight on the front of the ski boots. When you balance the weight forward from the core, you will ensure that the weight is balanced over the center of the skis. This will ensure maximum ability and control in order to turn your skis smoothly.

Strength And Power

The quadriceps muscles or the front of the thigh and the gluteal muscles or the back of your thigh are considered the major power muscles used during skiing. You can train these muscles with exercises like split squats, lunges, cycling, deep squats and step ups. Never use wall squats which may translate into skiing with weight on your heels. Quads training is most often a neglected element of strength. Quads will work in two ways on a slope. They help straighten your knees as well as control it from a straight position to a bent position. This process is called eccentric strengthening which is essential for ski training.

The quads will not work eccentrically during cycling. It is the hamstring that helps bend your knee when cycling. Perform step-downs off a step to work the quads eccentrically. You must have the alignment in a perfect way during such workouts. Start with 30 reps and add more weight when you feel it easier to do.

Next is to work your lateral hip muscles such as the gluteus medius. Skiing is a sport that relies on extensive external hip rotation. This is why it is important to train these muscles. One of the best workouts in this regard is the clam exercise. Lie on your side with the hips and knees placed in a skiing position. Keep the ankles together and the hips steady and lift the top knee. This should be done like a clam opening and closing.

You will feel the muscle working in the outside of the buttock. Repeat this for at least 30 times, and practice the same movement in a standing position. This is essential for you to learn to use these muscle groups while skiing. Once you have finished building fitness and strength, move onto the propulsive movements. The best way to start is by jumping sideways on and off a step. Start with a lower step and gradually go higher. This will help you on steep narrow slopes. Fast movements are essential during such times. Keep your alignment perfect at all times.

Cardiovascular Fitness

When you have a good alignment, your body will work so efficiently that you can get away with a lower level of cardiovascular fitness. But you don’t have perfect alignment, interval training is one of the most efficient forms of training for you. Try a step machine or cycling to work some of the main muscles used during skiing.

Flexibility

When you are skiing, you need flexibility when you fall over. Some people have muscle groups that are tight such as the hips and calfs. It is essential that you stretch these muscle groups. Don’t do static stretching before exercises. Dynamic stretching is far more superior in this regard.

Why Collaboration In Business Is So Valuable

Modern business is fueled by collaboration. It may be between executives trying to improve efficiency, among employees attempting to figure out the best way to get a particular job done, or between customers and business to create more popular and appropriate products. Business would fall apart without collaboration, but why is it so important?

Original Ideas And Creative Thinking

When you are just one individual business person working at your desk, you might have plenty of ideas inside your head. However, you really don’t have a good way of determining whether your ideas are good or not. It is invaluable to have someone else to discuss your ideas in detail with and bounce different ideas off of each other. It makes it easier to see any problems or flaws there might be in your plans that you might not have noticed before it was too late. Creative thinking and original ideas are inspired by collaboration. There are more minds available to brainstorm and toss different ides out there. It makes all kinds of things possible all of a sudden. Your business partner may have ideas that can improve the original thought that you had, or make changes to it or even take it to an entirely new level. Collaboration by its very nature brings different views, ideas, voices and teams together with the goal of solving a problem or creating something that is brand new. This can make the difference between your business being a forward thinking leader in your industry or a run of the mill company.

A More Productive And Happier Workforce

Top down leadership is how more rigid organizations operate. It can feel suffocating at times. If you happen to have some new idea but can’t voice it because “that isn’t how we do it here” or you are ignored when you make suggestions, then it can result in you having low morale and wanting to quit your job. In collaborative work environments, employees have a strong sense of community and everybody gets the opportunity to provide their input and throw their ideas out without being ignored or dismissed. This results in employees being a lot happier about their jobs- and when people are happy they are more productive as well. This type of collaboration also has the added bonus of leading to a workforce that is better educated, since employees and employees all effectively and easily continue to learn from one another.

Business Flexibility

One of the major things that can cause problems for a business or even result in it completely liquidating is being unable to be flexible and adapt to changing conditions. Businesses that refuse to go beyond from what they know and who don’t pay attention to changes taking place within their industries tend to be the companies that get left behind, such as payroll outsourcing. You don’t want that to happen to your business. By keeping yourself open to fresh perspectives, new ideas and collaboration, you can keep your business fluid, flexible, keep up with the times, stay abreast of technology and perhaps even innovate new methods and ideas. Collaboration can mean the difference between staying stuck in a rut and winning a marathon.

Creative Problem Solving

Problem solving is one of the main reasons for collaboration. If you try to work on a problem on your own in your office, it could take a long time for you to come up with a good solution. It also might only work over the short term, but fail over the long term. If you have a team or partner to collaborate with, the problem can be viewed from all different angles- including ones you might not think of on your own. You are much more likely to be able to come with a solution that is more foolproof, interesting and dynamic. In addition, it helps to divide the workload up and increases your ability to solve problems creatively.

Like the saying goes, sharing a problem cuts the problem in half, so be sure to encourage collaboration in your workforce by business coaching.

Choosing The Right Phone For Your Business

Buying phones is never simple is it? It’s bad enough when it’s just for you, there are so many options and configurations you’re almost overwhelmed. But when you’re trying to choose the right phone for your business, it’s a whole different ball game. To make your decision making a little easier, here are a few questions you can ask yourself when choosing whether to go with an Apple or an Android for your business.

What Do You Need?

 Ask yourself, what do you really need from this phone? If you’re just looking for a device that allows you and your team to make phone calls and check emails, then it’s pretty impossible to make the wrong choice. The difficulty comes in when you need extra features and productivity. If you’re looking for user friendly, reliable service that works seamlessly with other Apple devices, allowing remote access and complementary functionality, then an Apple phone is the way to go. If you’re looking for a more open ended device with fewer restrictions for development and a highly adaptable interface and software, Android devices might be more compatible. Once you understand exactly what you require from your phone, the choice will be much easier.

 How Does It Fit In?

For a lot of businesses, the prospect of unified coms has been marred by bad experiences. Often these experiences occur when one part of the infrastructure can’t communicate with another and the result can be a headache to fix. A unified approach to coms should ensure that it all works together and this can have a huge effect on what equipment and operating systems you use. For example, some aspects of the Apple ecosystem might not work so well with your specialised IT infrastructure and similarly your Android phone may encounter more hurdles when communicating with Apple machines. If you’re using apps for your business, your phones all need to be able to use them and transfer data between themselves. If you are using a unified communications or telephone systems provider make sure you involve them in your decision making, as they will be able to advise you on the best handsets and operating systems to use in your environment.

User Preference

Once you’ve assessed all of the technical requirements and narrowed it down to a few select models that meet your needs, the process gets a little trickier. When you’re choosing a phone for yourself, you know what you like and what you want. When you’re choosing phones for the rest of your business, it gets a little more complicated. Trying to balance what everyone likes is an almost impossible task, so you need to understand why your employees prefer certain types of phone before you start.  Of course, there are many different operating systems you can choose for your business phone and sometimes this will be the deciding factor on it’s own. If you don’t get on with Apple or Android in your personal life, it’s unlikely using it for business is going to be productive. Take the time to put together a short survey for your employees to understand what they want from a business phone, and what they don’t like. The results should show you the prevailing preference for Apple or Android, and help you understand if your employees don’t want one or the other for connectivity, performance or just superficial reasons.

When it comes to mobile phones there will always be divided opinions. Some people still love or hate both platforms for reasons that having nothing to do with functionality, or are driven simply by brand loyalty. Whatever your reasons for choosing an Apple or an Android phone for your business, it’s important to keep an open mind about the options. And if all else fails, ask a professional to advise you on the best options for you.

5 Reasons You Might Want to Consider Becoming an HGV Driver

If you’re a young, new recruit to the workforce in the UK and in search of a challenging, rewarding career path; or if you’re stuck in a career from which you want to change – then have you ever considered the appeal of becoming an HGV driver?

The answer, for many, is probably not.

However, for those who are seeking a new career path, the HGV and freight industry in the UK currently represents a chance for a secure, engaging and financially rewarding job with ample opportunities for progression.

Driver Shortage

The UK HGV industry is currently in the midst of a fairly hefty driver shortage. Over the past decade the average age of employed drivers has risen, to the point that there have been considerably more long-term drivers retiring from the industry than younger drivers joining it.

Current estimates on the actual shortfall vary from anywhere between 30,000 and 60,000. Either way, that’s a lot of jobs waiting to be filled by the right, suitably trained new candidates.

With less than 2% of the current workforce under the age of 25 there’s a major drive (if you’ll excuse the pun) within the industry to recruit from this section of society, offering an alternative and attractive option for those seeking a more vocational career.

Competitive Starting Salary

If the profile of the industry needs to be raised then it’s worth noting that a newly qualified HGV driver has the potential to find work with a more than competitive starting salary. Filling one of the vacancies at a major local or national freight company can mean a starting wage upwards of £25,000 per year for a new driver, a figure that’s at least comparable to, and in a lot of cases more than, a graduate training programme at an accountancy firm or other more academic career.


Development of New and Transferable Skills

Believe it or not, there’s more to being an HGV driver than simply sitting behind the steering wheel and heading from A to B. There are the obvious skills associated with the driving itself, and once you’re a qualified driver you have the opportunity to carry these into a variety of different driving careers, albeit with continual development along the way. Additionally, there are other ancillary skills attached to the work, such as planning and logistics. So if you do move your career in another direction in the future, you’ll have developed a sound skillset upon which to move.

Career Progression

That being said, one of the appeals of the HGV industry is that it provides a generally good pathway for progression within the sector. As a driver, with greater experience and continual development, there are the opportunities to earn higher salaries for working with specialist vehicles; sensitive or dangerous goods transport for instance. Also, as you develop in your work there are opportunities to move into more managerial roles, working on the logistics side of the industry, providing a pathway for a long, stable and well-paid career.

It’s a cool job

You have your own wagon, your days are spent out on the open road with your own playlist accompanying you in the cabin. And every day you might be heading off around the country, possibly even around the continent, seeing new places and enjoying a sense of freedom and independence in your daily routine, while being paid a more than healthy salary to do so. Compare that to the relative same old, same old, routine of working in a call centre or office admin job.

What’s not to love?

Why Buy-to-Let Property Investment Can Yield Long-term Profit

Whether first-time home buyer or otherwise, purchasing a property is a huge commitment. For many, the purchase represents a move into your own dwelling – a place to call home, to lay down your roots and take your first steps onto the property ladder. But what about the options of purchasing a property for investment purposes? Of investing in property as a means of planning finances for the future?

Planning for one’s retirement when you’re starting out may not be uppermost in your mind; it just seems such a long way off doesn’t it? But the reality is that it’s never really too early to start giving it due consideration. For long-term sustainable growth, bricks-and-mortar offers some real opportunity. And, for those who have gotten involved in the UK property market in recent years, buy-to-let property investment has been considered a ripe environment for long-term profit opportunities.

What is the buy-to-let market?

Quite simply, buy-to-let in the United Kingdom is the practice of purchasing a property for the express reason of renting it out.

While there may be rare instances of a property being purchased outright, far and away the most common way to finance the a buy-to-let property is through specific buy-to-let mortgages. Although fundamentally these mortgages work in the same way as a regular mortgage, they do tend to differ in criteria and stipulations from a home purchasing mortgage. As a rule a buy-to-let mortgage would require a much larger down-payment (typically 25% of the property value) and you might expect to pay higher interest rates and arrangement fees.

And, while this might sound like a detraction for buyers, buy-to-let remains an attractive proposition for long-term investment. Indeed, the market has seen spectacular growth upwards of 35% in the past year alone in the UK, with overseas investors playing a significant role in this surge.

There may be higher costs at the point of purchase but if you have the capital in place and set yourself up to correctly manage the property as an investment and to maximise your earnings, then there can be real opportunity to make a regular income yielding steady growth in the long-term.

A Market Ripe for Growth

So why does the UK buy-to-let market offer potentially sound long-term profit opportunities? We need to look at a number of factors about the UK economy and property market in general.

House Shortage

The current situation in the UK property market is that while the number of first-time buyers continues to rise, the number of suitable, affordable and indeed, available properties lags some way behind. With less properties available for sale, the gap is generally being filled by the rental market, where demand remains consistently high.

Long-Term Increases in Value

While there may be fluctuations in property prices over short periods, a look at the historic trend of the UK property market will show that, over the longer term, house prices tend to increase. If therefore you have a property (or portfolio) occupied by tenants to provide regular earnings (or at the very least ensure all costs are covered) in the long term, the value of the property  itself stands a better than average chance of increasing to deliver a positive return on your investment which can help those longer term saving plans.

Even in the short-term, in the current UK economic landscape, there exists opportunities for growth in a market that’s seeing record price increases across the UK. Combined with a buoyant rental market and, with careful planning and sound investment, healthy growth can be found in the buy-to-let market in the UK.

Do Passive Income Opportunities Still Exist in the UK Rental Market?

Creating alternate income streams away from the 9-5 day job is a sure fire way to ease many a differing financial circumstance. Whether reducing debt burdens, creating a nest egg for the future or working towards becoming financially independent, having something in your personal asset column which brings money into the coffers can only be a good thing. And one area, in particular, which has traditionally been seen as a relatively ‘safe bet’ in terms of investing, has been the property market. In particular, the rental sector.

In recent times the UK rental market has become a sector of particular buoyancy for investment; attracting new buyers and considerable interest from overseas investors. Historic price rises and high demand has meant those investing in buy-to-let properties (the UK term for buying a property specifically to rent out) have generally seen healthy returns on their investment.

However, changes in conditions, particularly around amendments in the tax laws on rental properties have suggested that perhaps there is a move to curtail the excessive growth on buy to let investors, as a means to overcome the shortage of available and affordable homes in comparison to the high demand.

So does this mean that opportunity for a passive income stream in this sector is no longer viable?

In short – NO.

What are the changes?

Back in 2015 UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced that there was going to be some substantial tax changes in the buy-to-let market. What this amounted to was:

  • A reduction in the tax relief available to private landlords on their mortgage interest payments
  • Increases in Stamp Duty (a land tax payable on the purchase of certain properties) charges on new rental properties

However…

While these changes have given cause to debate in the UK as to whether or not this will restrict opportunities for growth, all evidence seems to suggest that the market will continue to present excellent possibilities for long-term passive income for those who invest wisely.

The tax changes have meant that investors need to re-think the way in which they go about investing in the market. The biggest change has been in forcing landlords to think of their properties very much more as business investments. This has led to the more savvy investor registering their properties as a Limited Company (a small corporation).

While the tax changes affect private property investment, corporate investment is taxed differently. This had led to mortgage lenders seeing something of a surge in corporate mortgages for rental properties, as landlords seek to change their business model and protect their income streams.

The Market remains buoyant

There is a shortage in the UK property market which is in need of being addressed; a reason for these governmental measures. The reality, however, is that this is a long-term issue that simply won’t be resolved overnight, meaning the demand for good quality and affordable rental accommodation is likely to remain high for the foreseeable future.

This situation is likely to be enhanced for new investors in search of earning opportunity with the emergence of other regions away from the traditional London market coming to prominence. Major re-development and investment in cities such as Manchester and Birmingham, with their lower costs of living and rates, is attracting new business growth in these conurbations. Which is leading to major new property developments aimed at the influx of young workers moving for lifestyle and employment reasons.

So Opportunity Still Exists

It’s certainly true that the UK rental market has undergone some changes in the past 12 months, and it’s also true that this has largely been in response to a growing shortage of available property to buy. However, if you are in search of opportunities to generate sustainable income, and have enough capital to outlay in the first instance, then investing in the UK rental market still offers the chance for growth and regular earnings. Treating the investments as the business assets they really are and research for suitable locations and the opportunity still exists for long-term sustainable growth.

Property Investment Opportunities in the UK Student Rental Market

It might not be a market you’d instantly give thought to when considering property investment but there’s a lot going for the UK student rental market right now. A quick look into the numbers and you’ll see that investors have been getting ever more engaged in the market over the past few years with the penny dropping that it’s an environment ripe for healthy growth.

Record Investment Levels

2015 saw record levels of investment into the UK student rental market with some significant amounts of money, in excess of £4 billion, coming in from both high-end investors from the UK as well as overseas.

The reason?

Quite simply, student accommodation represents some of the best opportunities for strong returns on investment anywhere in the UK property market in the current climate.

Indeed, the UK rental market as a whole has enjoyed a period of buoyancy in the post-recession years but it’s towards student accommodation where many are finding the key areas of action.

So, the obvious question: why is this the case?

Increasingly Growing Demand

Demand for student accommodation in the UK has never been higher. Figures show that year on year the number of 18-20 year olds heading into Higher Education is increasing, a trend set to continue into the next decade. And as trends in how students accommodate themselves have shifted (more of which below), so the demand for modern accommodation has risen in accordance.

Adding to this ever higher demand is the greater influx of foreign students making their way to UK campuses in recent years. An overseas student is potentially lucrative for a University and most in the UK are actively looking to recruit healthy numbers to the fold. For the high quality and attractively located establishments – in the big cities particularly – this has meant a dramatic rise in the need for good quality accommodation.

Increased Demand on Living Standards

Which brings us to the other crucial component of this positive investment environment. Students of days gone by would have traditionally opted for older house-based accommodation, generally an inner city style house converted by private landlords to accommodate 4, 5, 6 or more students, often in basic lodgings with little in the way of modernity and home comforts.

Those days have gone.

The modern student is a lot more discerning about where he or she lives and will generally tend to arrive at University with an expectation of reasonably high quality living, replete with modern facilities essential to today’s environment – Wi-Fi, as an example.

Being a student is not a cheap deal anymore, with fees in the thousands per year. As such the student and their parents tend to expect higher standards of comfort. Take a look at the student apartment and housing facilities in London, Birmingham, Manchester and other major cities in the UK and you’ll find ultra-modern living quarters with good access to the city and the campus, and will usually have a raft of facilities and entertainment options on-site (be that a gym, café, satellite TV, powerful Wi-Fi and in some instances a cinema).

The combination of increased demand with higher expectations on standards has seen a major drive towards new student-oriented apartment blocks and dwellings from investors keen to tap into this lucrative market – with its steady stream of clients.

Conclusion

Real Estate and opportunities to invest in bricks and mortar have been considered a safe long-term bet for growth throughout time – even Lex Luther knew this in Superman. But different opportunities arise in different environments at different moments. For now, and into the foreseeable future, the student rental market in the major cities of the UK offers genuine potential to establish a regular income stream and some sustainable long-term yields to those who do their research and invest wisely.

5 Simple Ways to Maximise Profit on Your Rental Property

The UK rental market (buy-to-let market) has, and continues to be, a popular environment for shrewd investors in search of steady, long-term and regular returns on the their outlay. With demand for good quality rental accommodation still high and robust pricing across the country, the market has tended to attract those looking for greater stability in their investments, as opposed to some of the more volatile financial arenas.

However, the market has altered somewhat over the past twelve months, with changes in legislation towards tax relief for landlords putting new challenges in place for landlords and would-be landlords. Nevertheless, despite these changes and new challenges, by adapting your business model accordingly and being aware of some simple methods, investors can ensure that their rental property remains a sound investment in the short and longer-term, delivering the profit levels desired.

Tax Claims on Maintenance & Repair Work

Understanding the things you can legitimately claim tax relief from is a must for any investment or business plan in any field, and the buy-to-let mortgage is no different. General maintenance and essential repair work is one such area that offers a legitimate means of tax saving which can strengthen your profit margins.

This can include repairing and replacing essential household items due to general wear as well as ensuring the working condition of facilities within the home. Maintenance and repair can extend to paintwork and the overall upkeep of the property, although it needs to be made clear, that any work designed to improve the overall value of the house are not tax deductible.

Of course, not only do you get the additional financial and tax benefit from maintenance work, it also ensures you’re keeping the property in good condition, which can ensure it’s in high demand from future tenants.

Claim back for Services

If you own an apartment or dwelling within a block or complex, then there’s a fair chance that you might be subject to a degree of different charges for a variety of services around the grounds. These might include such things as cleaning and gardening services, security or the maintenance of communal and public areas.

All of which are tax deductible on your year-end claims.

Bills and Council Tax Payments

If the landlord of a property pays the bills – water, energy or other utilities – then you are entitled to claim this back against any tax burdens on the property. The same is true of council tax charges – if you the landlord pays the charge, then you can claim it back on your returns. It should also be noted that, as the law stands at present, this is also the case on properties that are empty.

Naturally, if the tenant pays these, then you cannot.

Claiming for cost of attaining Tenants

Once you enter the rental market you need to ensure that you’ve got tenants to live within the property. And in trying to achieve this, the likelihood is that you will have to spend some money. From advertising through to credit checks and legal agreements, the process costs anywhere up to around £300 per tenant in the current UK market, which of course eats into the profits. However, these again represent legitimate expenses that can be claimed back on the self-assessment forms.

Business, admin and office costs

Your property is an investment and a business which needs to be managed. As such, you are entitled to claim office expenses as part of your annual P&L. Whether you run a portfolio of properties or just one, you will inevitably incur administrative costs from stationary to additional energy or communication charges, each of which you may be able to demonstrate as a legitimate claimable expense.

The Marvel of Messi – 300 goals and rising in La Liga

Eventually we’ll stop running out of superlatives for Lionel Messi, the mercurial Argentine genius who simply can’t stop breaking new records for FC Barcelona. Already the greatest goal-scorer in Spanish league history, this past February say Messi become the first player to score 300 goals in the top flight of Spanish soccer.

Messi bagged his triple century goal in the victory over Sporting Gijon on the 17th February, yet another milestone in an astonishing ten year career thus far for the 28-year-old. And, if one magical record in a match wasn’t enough, Messi then helped himself to a second goal on the night, which just happened to be the club’s 10,000th goal of all time.

Since breaking into the team as a teenager back in the Frank Rijkaard days, Messi has been destined for greatness. But few could have envisioned, as he scored his first ever goal in a league encounter with Albacete, that he would have had such an astonishing impact on the game, both in Spain and the world over.

His goals against Gijon may have been taken him over the 300 barrier in La Liga, but it took his career tally in all matches to an astonishing 439 for the giants of Catalonia who once again look to be on course to claim yet another league title.

Which has been the story of Messi’s career at Camp Nou. In his first full year with the first team, Leo helped the team to a Champions League Final with Arsenal, winning their 2nd European Crown with a 2-1 victory. And, although he didn’t play in the final due to injury issues, the standard was set for the decade to come.

In the past ten years, Messi has been the talisman for unbridled glory, with personal acclaim following along the way. More European success came in 2009, 2011 and again in 2015 while in Spain it has been a litany of league titles and cup successes throughout; his goals, his vision and his extraordinary genius helping Barcelona become the greatest club side in the world. The team everyone wants to see play; a chance to see Messi in action in the flesh.

And of course, this has led to his becoming nothing short of a modern legend, already spoken about in the same revered tones as past greats: Puskas, Pele, Cruyff and Maradona. A five time winner of the World Player of the Year Award, his record is near unparalleled in the modern game. Fuelled by the rivalry of fellow great Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, Messi (and indeed Ronaldo) have scaled almost unassailable heights in the Spanish game; their achievements the stuff of legend.

The Sporting Gijon match saw Barcelona extend their long unbeaten run and put them ever nearer another league crown. For Messi himself, it was a continuation of a recent run of typically explosive form; 14 goals from 12 matches, as well as the devastating team play alongside Neymar and Suarez that has torn defences across Europe apart over the past year.

If he stopped playing today, Messi’s career would already be considered one of the greatest of all time. But the Argentinian is showing little sign of abating his ambition for more success. Already perhaps eyeing up the day he reaches 400 league goals (and who’d bet against it?) in the short term there’s the small matter of trying to defend the three trophies they claimed last season (La Liga, Copa Del Rey and Champions League), which would be one of the more remarkable achievements in living memory.

But with Messi on board, and continuing to deliver such breath-taking moments, there’s no reason to suspect that they won’t.

Why El Clasico is THE Must-See Match in Football

There are some truly epic rivalries in the world of association football: Rangers & Celtic, Germany & the Netherlands, Fergie & Wenger, Mourhino & Everyone. But over the years, and especially the past two decades, there’s one match that stands out as the must-see, most compelling rivalry in the game. Real Madrid & Barcelona – AKA El Clasico.

And the 2016 vintage is unlikely to be any different. With a league encounter that may yet have a major bearing on the destination of the league title and the possibility still remaining of a meeting in the Champions League (oh how we crave a Real – Barca final one day), the prospect of witnessing any collision between the two giants of Spanish football is always something to savour.

So what makes this meeting so compelling? Why do fans from across Spain, and indeed throughout Europe, stop calling into radio phone-ins for a few moments in order to catch the action from Camp Nou or the Bernabeu?

Well, lots of reasons actually.

Like these ones:

It has virtually all the best players in the world on the pitch

The footballing equivalent of an All-Stars game this is a derby encounter chock full of the real A list in football. Of course there’s Messi and Ronaldo continuing their quests for world domination, two men who could definitely score in a brothel. But then there’s Suarez and Neymar, Iniesta and Alves. Or Bale and Benzema, Modric and Rodriguez. Basically a collection of the best players currently playing the sport, all together, all happy to kick lumps out of their rival.

And lumps are generally kicked.

Because:

It almost always KICKS-OFF

And by kick-off, we mean that, more often than not, someone will go a little bit loco and mayhem may not be far behind.

The atmosphere is somewhat rarefied in these encounters, the desire to win superseded only by a desperation not to lose. All of which leads to tempers fraying, emotions overheating and even fists to start flying.

Take the encounter at the start of the 2010 league campaign. Already fraught following some typically ‘meaty’ challenges on Leo Messi, things took a turn for the tasty when another nasty tackle on the mercurial Argentinian led to a bit of a dust-up between Real’s Sergio Ramos and Barca’s Xavi and Carlos Puyol. And they were all such good friends just a couple of months earlier as team-mates with the Spanish national team on the way to World Cup glory.

And it’s not just the player’s intent on letting the occasion get the better of their good sense. Who can forget Jose Mourhino’s bizarre eye-poking of the late Barcelona boss Tito Villanova? Or the Barcelona fans who thought the best way to show their displeasure of Luis Figo’s move across from Barca to Real was to throw a pig’s head at him during the game?

Yes, El Clasico is never far from descending into rather wonderful lunacy.

Amazing Football

And then there’s the football itself. Because, as much fun as it is to watch players, managers and fans go stark raving bonkers in the heat of battle, the real, overriding reason why this fixture is such a special match in the football calendar is the quality of football on display.

The genius of Messi in the 2011 Champions League semi-final or the astonishing team display from Barca as they dismantled Real on home soil in 2015. Or Bale’s wonder goal to win the Copa Del Rey in 2014, the artistry of Zidane and his fellow Real Galacticos or the one-man wonder show from Ronaldhino for Barcelona that was so good it brought an ovation from the Real fans.

That’s why we love El Clasico – and why it’s the one game that all football and sports fans should strive to experience at least once.