Hansen: “I am as excited for Cologne as I have ever been”
For everything that Mikkel Hansen has won in his glorious career so far, one trophy is still missing.
The Danish standout has been at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 five times with three different teams - Barça, København and PSG - but he is yet to hold the most coveted trophy in men’s club handball.
It is not that the EHF Champions League does not like Mikkel Hansen, though. The 33-year-old left back with his trademark headband, playing for PSG since 2012, made the competition’s All-star Team four times and still holds the record for most goals scored in a single season, 141 in 2015/16.
On 28/29 December, Hansen will get another chance to win EHF Champions League with PSG at the EHF FINAL4 2020, with Barça their opponents in the semi-final.
In this interview of the week, Hansen talks about:
Mikkel Hansen: I think the best term to sum it up would be hectic. It is hard, for a player, not being able to know what’s going to happen next. I find it very complicated to focus on a game, suddenly for it not to be played. It’s not anybody’s fault, though, that’s just the way things are at the moment. This is, to be fair, one of the toughest things in my career. You might prepare for a game for weeks and, the day before, it is postponed. But I look on the bright side of things, we, as players, are lucky to be able to go to work every day.
eurohandball.com: Can it explain why Paris Saint-Germain had problems finding their rhythm at the start of the season?
Mikkel Hansen: PSG is a club full of ambitions, and I won’t tell you anything new by saying that we want to win every game. We’ve suffered three losses so far in the Champions League and that is not satisfying. As a group, we have not played well enough and we have to work harder, play harder to get things done. The game in Porto last week was the best example. We might have been in trouble in the first half, but then we did everything 10% more, and we finally won the game.
eurohandball.com: Can the ever-changing playing schedule be a reason for Paris woes?
Mikkel Hansen: I don’t think so. Or, maybe yes, but it is the same for everybody. In Paris, the team is full of players used to playing to big crowds, and playing in empty arenas is strange, that’s for sure. But, as I said, all teams are in this situation and we are not going to hide under any excuse. We are not satisfied with ourselves so far, that’s the bottom line.
We’ve suffered three losses so far in the Champions League and that is not satisfying. As a group, we have not played well enough and we have to work harder, play harder to get things done.
eurohandball.com: How does Nikola Karabatic’s absence affect Paris, in terms of responsibilities to be taken on the court?
Mikkel Hansen: No matter which team, losing a player like ‘Niko’ is a big blow. I felt bad when I saw him going down with that knee injury. But there are a lot of great players in Paris, and even though you can’t replace Nikola 100%, you can still try to give something extra to make up for his absence. He’s very important on and off the court, but if during games all the players give 10% extra, I’m sure we can still achieve everything we want.
eurohandball.com: What do you think of the EHF FINAL4 in Cologne in December?
Mikkel Hansen: Maybe playing it in December, right after Christmas, is not easy for us players, but I guess that was the least bad solution. Of course, we are very motivated to play there, I am really looking forward to travelling to Cologne again. The EHF FINAL4 remains the EHF FINAL4, no matter the time of the year, it has got this special taste to it. Even if you’re tired, you want to play there. This time, there are no surprises, I think the four best teams in Europe will be there, and this event might be of an even higher level than the years before.
eurohandball.com: Does PSG’s presence at the EHF FINAL4 feel like a reward for the 2019/20 season?
Mikkel Hansen: It kind of does, yes, because we had a very good run in the Champions League, we only lost to Barcelona twice and in Szeged, which I think is still pretty good. We fought hard to finish second in the group phase and it paid off. But now is not the time to think about what happened anymore, it is time to look ahead.
Mikkel Hansen: Not much. I mean, playing Veszprém, Kiel or Barça was in my opinion equally tough. I saw Barça play in Kiel last Thursday, they sure are an amazing team with great players, but I think we are very good, too. In Cologne, anything can happen, so it’s better not to focus too much on the names of your opponent.
eurohandball.com: Even if that opponent beat you twice in the past season?
Mikkel Hansen: Yes, Barça might have won twice when we played them last season, but statistics don’t mean nothing in Cologne, so I don’t even pay attention to them. When we enter the court, both teams will be even at 0:0 and everything will have to be decided.
The EHF FINAL4 remains one of the biggest handball events on the planet and I want to compete with the best players. It might be tough physically, playing two games in less than 24 hours, but I’m as excited this year about going to Cologne as I was in the past.
Mikkel Hansen: I guess that the best memory I have was when we won the semi-final, that’s as good as it can get for me. Not being able to lift the trophy so far is a huge motivation for me. To be able to win it with Paris, a club I’ve been with for eight years, would be something amazing.
eurohandball.com: Is it something that is on your mind all the time?
Mikkel Hansen: Not in the way that winning the EHF FINAL4 would wake me up at night. It is, for sure, a huge motivation for me, but as much as winning the next World Championship with Denmark or winning the French league with Paris are. I think about it because I want to win every competition I take part in, not because I have not lifted the trophy yet.
eurohandball.com: Going there for the sixth time, is the level of excitement going down bit?
Mikkel Hansen: Never ever! The EHF FINAL4 remains one of the biggest handball events on the planet and I want to compete with the best players. It might be tough physically, playing two games in less than 24 hours, but I’m as excited this year about going to Cologne as I was in the past.