Can Cadenas pull all the right strings?
When you sit down to watch ABANCA Ademar Leon this season you can expect fireworks. Fast-tempo handball with some highly technical playmakers and wings – a real joy to watch.
However, it might not be all sunshine and lollypops for Leon this season, after they let eight names go during the transfer period. Cadenas will have to come up with solutions to the chinks in their armour as well as attempt to make everything click with the newcomers.
We continue our EHF European League Men countdown series on group phase contenders.
- Manolo Cadenas’ third stint at Leon as head coach
- Cadenas brought the club big success back in 2001 when they won the ASOBAL
- an eclectic mix of nationalities in the squad, including American, Cape Verdean, Chilian, Portuguese, Serbian and Croatian
- Leon hold two European cup titles from 1998/99 and 2004/05, also under Cadenas
The burning question: Can Cadenas guide this team in transition together?
It’s no secret that ABANCA Ademar Leon are a team currently in development. Cadenas himself recently stated that there is a lot of room for improvement, especially in defence. Are these shortcomings in defence hinting at a lack of homogony within the squad? Or is it simply the growing pains that come with seeing eight players leave and five join? Only time will tell if Cadenas can bring his diverse band of brothers together once the EHF European League group phase rolls around.
One of the more visible issues from this transitional period is the fact that the club were not able to bolster the right-hand side of the court in pre-season. With the exodus of right back David Fernandez (to Wisla Plock) and wing Mario Lopez (to BM Benidorm), the club brought in 19-year-old Serbian Milan Gostovic, who is currently the only right back in the squad. Likewise, Gonzalo Perez Arce is now the sole left-handed winger Cadenas has at his disposal. Injuries or fatigue to this right side of the court could cause Cadenas massive headaches once we get into nitty-gritty part of the season.
Need for speed – Jamie Hernandez / Gonzalo Perez Arce
Voted best left wing of the ASOBAL last season for good reason, Hernandez (left wing) forms a very strong wing duo with Gonzalo Perez Arce (right wing). And when these two are on form, they can punish any defence. The two young master tacticians have been linking up very well with new centre back signing, Natan Suarez, in the ASOBAL so far this season. It will be exciting to see what the speedy youngsters can bring to the EHF European League stage.
Gamechanger – Natan Suarez
If you haven’t seen him live before then you are in for a treat! This man is a living highlight reel – a quick scroll through ASOBAL’s top goals from last season shows that Suarez is omnipresent in top 10s, even picking up the award for best goal of the 2019/20 season.
Suarez is a constant threat on goal himself as well as having extraordinary vision for passes to the line and wing. This is a great signing for Leon and, at 22, he is one to keep an eye on for the future.
New blood – Khalifa Ghedbane
The EHF Champions League 2018/19 winner joins Leon’s ranks to form a strong goalkeeping duo along with Dino Slavić. Ghedbane made his way from Vardar after gaining great experience sprinkled with some turbulent times off the court. Now he is seeking some stability and he believes head coach Manolo Cadenas offers just this.
The Algerian international stated he made the move to the ASOBAL runners-up because of Cadenas’ eye for goalkeeping tactics and the chance to develop and grow under his guidance. However, Ghedbane will have his work cut out when it comes to securing court time as the electric Croatian Slavić is, for the moment, the clear number one between the sticks.
A season to remember...one night to forget
One of Ademar Leon’s most memorable seasons has to be 2011/12. The Spanish side were in the group phase of the EHF Champions League coming up against the likes of AG Kobenhavn, THW Kiel, Pick Szeged, Montpellier, and RK Partizan Beograd. They managed six wins and a draw against THW Kiel, only losing three of their ties. From there, they were paired with Veszprem in the Last 16, winning by the narrowest of margins, 56:55, over two legs.
The Spanish side were just two games away from making history, as they found themselves in the quarter-finals against Füchse Berlin. A legendary performance in the first leg saw Leon come away with massive 11-goal win (34:23), with eight goals from Martin Stranovsky. The likes of Antonio Garcia, Carlos Ruesga and Rafael Baena were ecstatic with joy as the return leg seemed more like a formality with such a large cushion.
However, what happened next shook the handball world: a masterclass staged by Füchse Berlin’s coach, Dagur Sigurdsson, saw his side mount one of the biggest comeback’s in handball history, as they won 29:18 (52:52 on aggregate, advancing on away goals). It didn’t end in Leon’s favour, but it is a quarter-final handball fans around Europe will never forget.
Arrivals and departures
Newcomers: Khalifa Ghedbane (HC Vardar), Oleg Kisselev (BM Nava), Leandro Semedo (Helvetia Anaitasuna), Natan Suarez (Liberbank Cuenca), Milan Gostovic (HC Bruck), Mateusz Piechowski (Wisla Plock)
Departures: Dzmitry Patotski (to Nava), Juan Jose Fernandez (Istres Provence Handball), Ivan Mosic (Riihimäen Cocks), Acacio Marques (Al Arabi), David Fernandez (Wisla Plock), Federico Vieyra (Handball Sassari), Mario Lopez (BM Benidorm), Gonzalo Carou (Fertiberia Puerto Sagunto)
European cup records
Cup Winner's Cup
Winners (2): 1998/99, 2004/05
Runners-up (2): 2000/01, 2006/07
Winners (1): 2000/01
Runners-up (5): 1996/97, 1998/99, 2016/17, 2017/18, 2019/20
Winners (2): 1998/99, 2008/09
Runners-up (5): 1996/97, 1997/98, 2007/08, 2011/12, 2017/18