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FC Barcelona Players: Samuel Eto’o

Samuel Eto’o, although he seems to have been playing at the top level for such a long time, was, in fact, born in March 1981 in Nkon, Cameroon. Seemingly followed by controversy, Eto’o signed for Real Madrid as a 16 year old and had, to put it mildly, a strange relationship with the club from then on.

Firstly, upon his arrival at Madrid airport, young Samuel was famously forgotten about – a young black African with no Spanish hanging around an airport; an inauspicious beginning. After uneventful loan spells at Leganés and Espanyol, the coltish-looking Eto’o found himself loaned out to Mallorca, where he really began to show off his credentials.

Scoring 54 goals, Eto’o became the islanders’ highest league goal scorer and developed a real affinity with the supporters there – and he famously scored a spectacular individual goal against Madrid in the Bernabeu! Eto’o enjoyed his relationship with Mallorca so much that, when they reached the Copa del Rey final in 2003, he paid out €30,000 on a meal for them!

At the end of his loan spell, the Real Madrid supporters were almost unanimous in their desire for Samuel to return to the capital and compete for the forward positions with Raul and Ronaldo. What followed was a summer of continuous speculation and argument and eventually, for €24 million, the player signed for Barcelona – something that still annoys many Real Madrid fans.

Since then, Eto’o has scored goals galore for the Catalan giants. In his first, championship-winning season, Eto’o scored 25 league goals, including the title-clinching strike at Levante. He reached 50 goals in just 67 matches – a club record.

In addition to wining African Footballer of the year a record three times in succession from 2003, Samuel was part of the Cameroon side that won the African Cup in 2000 and 2002 and was runner-up in 2008. Previously, he had been the youngest player, at 17 years and 3 months, in the 1998 World Cup. He was the pichichi, top goal scorer, in La Liga in 2005/06, when, of course, he scored an equalising goal in the Champions’ League final against Arsenal.

Controversy has never been far away, however. After winning the league in 2005, Eto’o made the mistake of singing an abusive song about Madrid during the on-pitch celebrations. He has also been famously outspoken in his denouncements of racial abuse chanted in grounds – even threatening to walk off during one league game at Zaragova. Furthermore, there were times during 2007/08 season when Samuel Eto’o seemed a very forlorn figure, when his relationship with some of the other players was not at its best. At the end of the season, it seemed that the club were determined to transfer Ronaldinho, Deco and Eto’o, the perceived bad influences at the club. Eto’o, though, with typical determination, was adamant that his future was still with Barcelona – and he has proved to be absolutely correct.

Samuel Eto’o is fast, two-footed, brave and a totally committed team player and arguably the best centre forward in modern football.

Airport Boost For Andorra

From a poor European country with no real economy, Andorra has been transformed in the past forty years to a vibrant independent State, sought after by the wealthy for her tax haven status, and skiers for her ski runs that match the best in Europe for facilities and ski holidays infrastructure.

The one drawback that Andorra has had is the distance from a major airport, two and a half hours drive to Barcelona in Spain or Toulouse in France, with some ski holidays starting with a night in one of Barcelona hotels before setting off for Andorra.

But that is set to change with agreement for an aiport to be built just fifteen minutes drive from the Spanish / Andorra border.

As well as the extra ski tourists the new airport will impact Andorra as a tax haven. Andorra and the more famous Monaco are Europe’s leading tax havens, with residents enjoying the benefit of no income tax. Property prices in Andorra are less than a third of the price of Monaco’s.

Commenting on the new airport, one Andorra estate agent who specialises in Andorra property for sale thinks that the prices of Andorra properties will rise.

‘At the moment Monaco has the advantage of being ten minutes away from an international airport by helicopter, while Andorra is over two hours. With that advantage gone we anticipate more people considering a tax haven will consider Andorra, with a resulting appreciation in property prices.’

Property in Andorra has risen an average of ten per cent a year in recent years, with three streams of buyers – the local market, buyers for ski holiday homes who are often on a Crystal Ski holiday and like Andorra enough to buy a holiday home, plus those looking for a tax haven.

The airport is to be located in Seu d’Urgell, and the first flights are anticipated to be in 2010 or 2011, with a runway of 4,500 feet – not long enough for some medium range aircraft, and it is likely that most commercial airlines using the airport will be 60 to 80 seaters, plus private jets much favoured by the wealthy who might now consider Andorra as a viable tax haven.

Crystal Ski

As well as being welcomed by the property business in Andorra, a new airport has been greeted enthusiastically by the skiing industry.

The country has upgraded facilities in recent years, and often competes as a top ski destination in Europe, with well known ski companies like Crystal Ski operating holidays for the British market.

In recent years the number of tourists for the Andorra ski holiday season has topped ten million visitors, and the ski industry is an important part of the country’s economy, with the government investing in new infrastructure to help tempt visitors back for skiing for repeat visits.

But last year was the worst season for decades as the snow, which normally falls from end October, didn’t arrive until mid March, and the first drop in the number of ski holidays in Andorra being sold by British and other European travel agents dropped from the previous ski season for some years.

The new airport cutting travelling time from the UK, one of the Andorra ski holiday’s main markets, could boost the occupancy levels of hotels in Andorra significantly.

‘When people are considering a ski holiday in Andorra’, comment one travel guide, ‘At the moment to reach Soldeu, one of Andorra top ski villages, it’s two and a half hours from Barcelona to the capital la Vella, and then another twenty minutes on top of that – nearly a three hour trip after a flight. Cutting down resort arrival time from three to one hour will be enough to influence some people’s decision on where to visit.’

Recent investment by the government has reached several million Euros designed to keep the country in line with other European winter destinations, and intended to make Andorra a natural choice for the ski and snowboard fraternity, the addition of an airport close to her border could help ensure that.

All that is needed now is a good level of snow in the years to come.

The Amero: Should the US support a North American

I have to admit, this is the first time I’ve heard of this concept. I don’t know many of the details but I disagree that this ‘Amero’ could benefit North America. In 2004 I studied in Barcelona, Spain for about 6 months. I stayed with a host-mother the entire time and though the language barrier made it difficult for us to have in-depth conversations (I didn’t learn very much Spanish while I was there), we did discuss the Euro and how Spain was affected by it. I think it was brought up by a sad attempt of me asking her why she took in ‘host children’. She told me that since the Euro was worth much more than their previous form of currency, and no inflation occured after the switch, she needed another form of income to pay the rent of her apartment other than her full time job. Even so, as a tourist, I loved the idea of never having to worry about exchanging my cash when I traveled to other countries. But Europe is quite a bit differnt than North America. First off, there’s a form of transportation in Europe that literally connects almost every country. Secondly, the distance between each country is considerably smaller. If a European visits northern Canada, would they then spend however many hours it would take to travel to the US? And then to Mexico? I lived in Pennsylvania my entire life and only once traveled to Canada. I had no trouble with money because I used my check card to get cash or pay for meals. The same goes for my one and only trip to Mexico. If the main benefit of making an Amero that can be used anywhere in North America is convenience, then it doesn’t seem necessary to me.

Stay safe in Barcelona!

A lot of tourists are heading to mainland Europe, visiting cities such as Barcelona, Rome and Paris as opposed to the previously more popular destinations on the coast. However, you must stay safe when abroad, as there are a lot of risks of going to big cities like these, namely crime. Here are some tips to help you avoid pick-pocketing in these major places:

• Wear your normal clothes, to avoid ‘standing out’. There are a lot of tourists that go about wearing football shirts or other branded goods – these simply identify you as an easy target.
• Keep maps and guidebooks out of sight. These again will identify you as a tourist, and if you have bought some Barcelona tickets for a football match, keep these concealed.
• Wear your bag on your front. Known as a ‘bum bag’ in the UK or a ‘fanny pack’ in the USA, this allows you to keep your belongings safer by having them in full sight as opposed to on your back.
• Avoid physical contact. Some people might “accidentally” bump into you whilst slipping a hand into your pocket or handbag. A lot of collisions will probably be very innocent and accidental, but be wary anyway.
• Avoid street games. Many of these will appear entertaining, but some will just be a con or set up to attract your attention whilst people eye up your belongings.
• Don’t carry all your belongings around with you at the same time. Just carry as little cash as possible, with a little more in case of emergencies. Using your credit card can be the most secure method because if you lose it then you can ring your bank and cancel it immediately.
• Avoid using public transport. When possible, book the trip with your travel operator as you will be surrounded by other tourists and also have a guaranteed way of getting to and from your destination.

Euro Tax Haven Property Prices Climb Again For 2007

One of Europe’s best kept secrets and hardly known outside of the skiing and financial communities, the small European tax haven of Andorra has seen some startling rises in her property values in the last two years, with a repeat performance in 2007 possible.

In 2005 property inflation hit 19 per cent, and in 2006 the official property inflation reached sixteen per cent, and according to Andorra real estate specialists Tribune Properties 2007 is likely to see a further ten per cent rise.

‘There are three streams of buyers for Andorra’, say Tribune, ‘An active local market, second home buyers looking for ski apartments, and international buyers who want to gain residency in a tax haven. The international buyers add pressure on prices and often buy three or four bedroom apartments and chalets, making sure that the top end of the market is as active as the low and mid range properties.’

With a lack of snow for the first eight weeks of the Andorra ski holiday season, the second home buyers could be thinner on the ground than usual. The number of tourists is down by some fifteen per cent, and that could impact the property market as some visitors like it so much they buy a property in popular resorts such as Arinsal and Soldeu. So we feel a ten per cent rise in Andorra property values could be realistic for 2007.’

Andorra as a tax haven destination has been benefitting recently from the high cost of real estate in Monaco. Monaco recently became the most expensive country for property in Europe, and while a 32m2 studio in Monaco will cost close to a million Euros including the closing costs, Andorra offers over 100m2 three bedroom two bathroom apartments at less than half the price – with the same tax advantages as better known Monaco, bringing out a map of Andorra for many investors recently.

The different type of buyers tend to head for different areas of Andorra, with the ski apartment buyers tending to purchase in the key ski resorts of Soldeu and Arinsal.

Those looking for residency go more for the year round villages and towns which have a resident community.

Outside of the capital (la Vella) these tend to be La Massana and the upcoming village of Anyos, Ordino and Arinsal, although Arinsal’s nightlife during the ski season early December to late April tends to steer many newcomers to La Massana and Ordino.

Barcelona Hotels

In addition to attracting international buyers in increasing numbers for residency, the Andorra authorities have invested heavily in their ski infrastructure, boosting the country’s tourism potential and subsequently Andorra’s real estate market.

And for this year’s ski season Andorra has opened a new family friendly ski park in Arinsal, moving away further still from her old image of a cheap and cheerful ski holiday for 18-30 year olds to one that caters well for all.

One of the few drawbacks when taking residency in Andorra compared to Monaco has been access to a major international airport, as there is no Andorra Airport. While Monaco enjoys close proximity to Nice Airport, with a ten minute helicopter ride available, Andorra’s nearest airports have been Barcelona and Toulouse, three hours away, with no direct Andorra flights.

Recent road improvements between Barcelona and Andorra has cut this by thirty minutes, and there is a possibility of a scheduled helicopter service, Andorra weather forecast permitting, or more likely ten minutes from the Spanish Andorra border, allowing quicker access to international flights for business people considering Andorra residency.

Other improvements within Andorra include new tunnels, allowing quicker access to the ski fields, and driving around Andorra easier.

With more demand from international buyers who want to take advantage of Andorra residency, the Andorra government announced in February that it was increasing the number of residency applications from the previous 200 year a year to 500.

‘Andorra is becoming more popular among the international buyers’, comment local travel guide YourAndorra, ‘And with Monaco real estate prices sky high it comes as no surprise that the government has moved favourably by allowing more residents. But it’s not just the tax free living they come for – it’s the weather in Andorra as well for many who see the ideal opportunity to live in a tax free environment and enjoying winter sports on top.’

A Iga Arcelona Beats Eal Adrid 2 0 In Lasico

The current leader of the standings Barcelona defeated Real Madrid 2-0 with late goals this Saturday in El Clsico, the biggest rivalry in Spain, having been played 157 times, with Real Madrid leading with 68 victories against 59 from Barcelona and 30 draws. Last Saturday Barcelona was looking for revenge since Real Madrid had won the last two Clsicos at home and away, so this game was really important for Bara, mostly with the great moment they are having.

The game was a constant battle between the two teams. Real Madrid had a great tactical game especially in their defense, but even with their big effort to stop Barcelona in the offense; two mistakes at the end of the game gave Bara the victory.

On the other hand, Barcelona had their difficulties in the game, but their consistency and determination of looking for the victory gave them the positive result. With this triumph Barcelona added a total of 38 points in the top position, 8 points ahead of the second place Valencia and 12 points ahead from Real Madrid. Also this is Barcelonas 12th victory in La Liga and one of the most important wins of this first part of the season for them.

At the beginning of the game, the Cules had several opportunities to open the score, but the great defense of Carnavaro, Metzelder and the excellent contribution of Iker Casillas, gave balance to Real Madrids defense. Real Madrid for its part had a clear option of goal with Wesley Sneijder but his shot was saved by the Baras goalkeeper Victor Valds. Later, Royston Drenthe had a very good chance but he failed to open the score for the Meringues because Valds made another great save.

Moreover, even though Barcelona was struggling in the first half, the team didnt lost their fighting mentality and at only 20 minutes to go, Busquets was fouled in the area by Salgado, which gave a penalty to Barcelona. Etoo executed the penalty but Casillas saved it in great way. Nevertheless, just 13 minutes later, Etoo took revenge and scored for Barcelona to put things 1-0. Real Madrid, desperate looking for a goal to tie the game, gave an option to Barcelona at minute 90 with a play between Henry and Messi, who scored the second and final goal for Barcelona.

Despite Real Madrids loss, the new coach of the Meringues Juande Ramos, was pleased with his teams effort and expressed he couldnt demand anything more from his players. On the other hand, the Barcelonas youngest coach Pep Guardiola, alleged that even with his team struggling during different parts of the game, his players never lost their objective of getting the victory and kept fighting until the end. Guardiola also expressed that even with this important triumph there is a long way to go to achieve the title but his team is working hard by focusing in every game and every opponent.

“Only 15 games have been played and there are a lot of other (teams) around us to play, like Villarreal and Valencia, among others. In January, we return to play in three competitions and that will take a lot out of the side,” said the young coach of Barcelona.

The next game of Barcelona will be against Villareal, who is in the fourth place with 29 points and is coming from a loss against Sevilla 1-0. With this past result, Villareal is expecting to get the victory against the undefeated Barcelona to add more points and climb in the table. Barcelona, on the other hand, will try to keep its winning pace and extend its advantage in the top spot. The game will be held at Villareal on December 21st.

For its part, Real Madrid will play against Valencia, which will be a tough game for them since Valencia is in second place and is expecting to add more points to get closer to Barcelona in the standings. We hope the best for these teams during this La Liga weekend.

Monaco Overpriced Claim Disputed

A well respected US magazine recently claimed Monaco has the most overpriced real estate in the world, claiming the rental returns as part of their figures meant the tax haven’s property costs were unduly high.

In response a Monaco internet site says the American magazine are wrong, and have forgotten why Monaco’s property prices are high in the first place.

‘The error they made was comparing Monaco with places like Rome, Warsaw, Los Angeles and Vancouver, and they also overestimated closing costs. While admittedly high in Monaco at around 11 per cent, it’s not common to be 20 per cent that their research was based on.’

The comparison of 50 financial centres assumed the property was not a main residence and looked at rental returns – another error when calculating Monaco’s property prices according to the Monaco internet guide.

‘By law in Monaco rentals are a minimum of one year, so it’s obvious that rental returns are going to be less than places where weekly and six monthly rentals are possible. To gain residency in Monaco via renting the residency office needs evidence of a twelve month contract, so Monaco is in a unique position when compared to other leading financial centres.’

‘There is a shortage of available property in Monaco and high demand that shows no sign of slowing down – given all these factors we just think the US magazine’s analysis of the Monaco real estate scene has been done without taking local factors into consideration.’

Typical property prices in Monaco at the moment include a second floor studio apartment at 1,100,000 Euros, a one bedroom apartment in Monte Carlo at 2,150,000 Euros, and a three bedroom two bathroom apartment at 5,500,000 Euros.

As well as buying a property, to gain residency in Monaco a bank account needs to be opened in the Principality, with account opening deposits varying between 100,000 and 500,000 Euros.

One thing that could put the brake on the number of Brits looking to move to Monaco was announced after the magazine’s claims about Monaco real estate prices were published.

The amount of time British tax exiles can spend in their home country is being limited by the British government, and it could impact the British economy, claim a company who specialise in tax haven property and residency.

Up until now a British taxpayer could avoid paying income tax by taking residency in a tax haven such as Andorra or Monaco, and be allowed to spend 90 days a year in Britain before falling foul of the Iland Revenue. Importantly both the day of arrival and departure into the UK didn’t count as a day.

So technically, a tax exile living in Andorra could drive to Barcelona airport for a 7am flight to London, and given the hour’s time difference between Spain and the UK, be comfortably in an office working by lunchtime.

Equally, the same tax exile could leave the London office at 6pm Friday for Barcelona en route to Andorra – and importantly those five days in the UK would count only as three of their ninety day allowance as the day travelling to and from the UK aren’t counted. Which allowed business men and women to commute from the tax havens of Andorra and Monaco thirty weeks a year. Some would do Monday to Thursday and could do that virtually all year and still stay on the right side of the British tax man.

Political complexities in Catalonia

For an American student going to study Spanish for a year in Barcelona, imagine my surprise when I entered the airport and saw a language other than Spanish guiding me in BOLD to the baggage claim. Of course, I knew that Catalan was prominent in Barcelona. After all, Barcelona is the capital city of the Catalonia region. I had no idea, however, just how close I would become with the Catalan identity while I lived in Spain.

Catalonia is one of Spain’s 17 pricipalities. Due to the diverse heritage of the country from various historical conquests, Spain’s rich culture boasts 4 official languages, belonging to the 4 nationalities of Spain whom mostly reside in their own principalities: Galician (Galicia), Basque (Basque Country), Catalan (Catalonia), and Castillian Spanish (throughout the country). Varying opinions range through the country in regard to the officiality of these 4 languages and the political connotations that they carry. For example, Basques and Catalans generally hold a more independent attitude which can even range to separatist movements in some sectors. The notorious terrorist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) hails from Basque Country and fights for Basque separation. Galicians, however, are not known for carrying independent political tendencies. Allow me to point out, however, that not all Catalans or Basques affiliiate with separatist or terrorist groups, either.

Traditionally, Catalans and Madrilenos hold a common political and cultural grudge against each other. The grudge originally stems from the conquest of the Catalans and their rich port of Barcelona in 1714 by Spanish military rule. During the rule of dictator General Francisco Franco from 1939-1975, Catalan culture and language was repressed and an underground movement of secretly teaching Catalan identity evolved. With the death of Franco in 1975, Catalan language was once again taught in school and a renaissance of modern Catalan pride publicly emerged. Today, the grudge still remains on the economic and political levels. Barcelona still generates more revenue than most of the rest of Spain, but relinquishes much of the wealth to socialist Spain’s Madrid government for redistribution to build infrastructure in more needy provinces.

I was fortunate enough to find housing in a flat with three other girls on Calle Balmes -all of whom were Catalan. One girl was from the Costa Brava in a small tourist town called Malgrat de Mar. Another hailed from the southern Catalan villa of

Getting A Job In Spain

If you have visited Spain, you may have fallen in love with the Spanish culture and now you want to live there. But first you will have to find a job in Spain, and that may not be easy to do. Using these guidelines will help. You will have greater opportunities if you look in a large city, and of course, some occupations are easier to find a job in.

First you will have to decide where you want to find a job. In a large city such as Madrid or Barcelona, you will find more opportunities; there are opportunities in small towns, but not as many. If you can’t afford to wait to find your job, a big city is your best bet. If you have visited a few cities already, you know which ones you prefer to live in.

Allow yourself some time to shop around. Getting a job in Spain will not be easy, so you can’t rush into it. Just as in other parts of the world, you can shop for jobs on the Internet, and you can also find out qualifications for the types of jobs that are available.

Therefore, you may have to have some funds to live in Spain for a while before you land that job. Being right there will help in a number of ways: you have a local address on your resume, you can easily go for interviews, and you can ask around with friends and neighbors about job openings. Make sure you have a cell phone so you have a way to be contacted. Put this number, as well as other relevant contact information such as you email address, on your resume.

There are going to be some legal and paperwork requirements for working in Spain, but these will depend on your country of origin. It is a lot easier for a citizen of EU countries to get a job in another EU country. If you live outside of the European Union, you will have to obtain a special work permit. The type of work permit will also depend upon the length of time you plan on working in Spain, and the type of work you plan on doing. To find out what permit you need, contact the Spanish consulate in your home country.

Getting all of this paperwork together can take time, so don’t wait until the last minute to handle it. If you have a job offer and then you have to start on the paperwork, the job may no longer be there by the time you are finished. In addition, there are some employers who want to see the paperwork before you will even be considered for the job.

One pretty important qualification for a job in Spain is the ability to speak Spanish. Even if you are considering a job where you won’t have a lot of contact with people, you will have to have a rudimentary knowledge to conduct an interview. Obviously, the more fluent you are, the better your chances of landing a job will be.

Andorra Real Estate Rises Again 2006

While property prices have risen in most parts of Europe, tax havens have outstripped most for property inflation.

Little known outside of the skiing and financial communities, the small European tax haven of Andorra has seen some startling rises in her property values in the last two years, with a repeat performance in 2007 possible.

In 2005 property inflation hit 19 per cent, and in 2006 the official property inflation reached sixteen per cent, and according to Andorra property specialists Tribune Properties 2007 is likely to see a further ten per cent rise.

‘There are three streams of buyers for Andorra’, say one local estate agency, ‘An active local market, second home buyers looking for ski apartments, and international buyers who want to gain residency in a tax haven. The international buyers add pressure on prices and often buy three or four bedroom apartments and chalets, making sure that the top end of the market is as active as the low and mid range properties.’

With a lack of snow for the first eight weeks of the Andorra ski holiday season, the second home buyers could be thinner on the ground than usual. The number of tourists is down by some fifteen per cent, and that could impact the property market as some visitors like it so much they buy a property in popular resorts such as Arinsal and Soldeu. So we feel a ten per cent rise in Andorra property values could be realistic for 2007.’

Andorra as a tax haven destination has been benefitting recently from the high cost of real estate in Monaco. Monaco recently became the most expensive country for property in Europe, and while a 32m2 studio in Monaco will cost close to a million Euros including the closing costs, Andorra offers over 100m2 three bedroom two bathroom apartments at less than half the price – with the same tax advantages as better known Monaco, bringing out a map of Andorra for many investors recently.

The different type of buyers tend to head for different areas of Andorra, with the ski apartment buyers tending to purchase in the key ski resorts of Soldeu and Arinsal.

Those looking for residency go more for the year round villages and towns which have a resident community.

Outside of the capital (la Vella) these tend to be La Massana and the upcoming village of Anyos, Ordino and Arinsal, although Arinsal’s nightlife during the ski season early December to late April tends to steer many newcomers to La Massana and Ordino.

New Hotels

In addition to attracting international buyers in increasing numbers for residency, the Andorra authorities have invested heavily in their ski infrastructure, boosting the country’s tourism potential and subsequently Andorra’s real estate market.

And for this year’s ski season Andorra has opened a new family friendly ski park in Arinsal, moving away further still from her old image of a cheap and cheerful ski holiday for 18-30 year olds to one that caters well for all.

One of the few drawbacks when taking residency in Andorra compared to Monaco has been access to a major international airport. While Monaco enjoys close proximity to Nice Airport, with a ten minute helicopter ride available, Andorra’s nearest airports have been Barcelona and Toulouse, three hours away, with no direct flights to Andorra.

Recent road improvements between Barcelona and Andorra has cut this by thirty minutes, and there is a possibility of a scheduled helicopter service, Andorra weather permitting, or more likely ten minutes from the Spanish Andorra border, allowing quicker access to international flights for business people considering Andorra residency.

Other improvements within Andorra include new tunnels, allowing quicker access to the ski fields, and driving around Andorra easier.

With more demand from international buyers who want to take advantage of Andorra residency, the Andorra government announced in February that it was increasing the number of residency applications from the previous 200 year a year to 500.

‘Andorra is becoming more popular among the international buyers’, comment a local travel guide, ‘And with Monaco real estate prices sky high it comes as no surprise that the government has moved favourably by allowing more residents. But it’s not just the tax free living they come for – it’s the Andorra weather as well for many who see the ideal opportunity to live in a tax free environment and enjoying winter sports too.’