A mix of sides top the power rankings
All four participants of the EHF Finals in Flensburg (27/28 May) have won at least two EHF European Cup trophies in their history, but which one is the best in terms of certain criteria like defence, attack, talent, experience or fan factor? Here are the power rankings in ten categories.
Defence: Having a player in your squad who was awarded best defender of the EHF Champions League several times and was part of many All-star teams means you have a solid-rock option for the middle block. Slovenian international Blaz Blagotinsek is this defensive insurance for Frisch Auf Göppingen - and was the key for why Göppingen conceded only 274 goals in the group phase, followed by only 110 conceded goals in both knock-out rounds. With an average of 27.4 goals against, Göppingen is on top, together with Füchse, but in contrast to their German compatriots they had to duel with much stronger group phase opponents. But, Berlin have similar “Balkan bulls” in defence with Serb Mijajlo Marsenic and Croat Marko Kopljar.
Attack: There is an equal race between Berlin and Montpellier with 472 goals scored so far each - and Montpellier strongly count on 79 goals scored in the Last 16 against FTC, while Füchse had the best attack after the group phase, netting 343 times. In terms of goal difference, Berlin are clearly on top, with +90 goals compared to the +71 of Göppingen and +56 of Montpellier. Taking into account individual scorers, Granollers lead the ranking with Antonio Garcia (81 goals), while Füchse are the only EHF Finals participant with two players among the Top 20 scorers of the competition: Milos Vujovic (69) and Jacob Holm (65)
Goalkeeper: Rangel Luan de Rosa is currently the best goalkeeper of the competition with 159 saves - one key reason for Granollers making it to Flensburg. Taking into account that he is the clear number 1 of the Spanish side, Montpellier counted on the strongest goalkeeping duo: Charles Bolzinger (96 saves) and Remis Desbonnet (87) are on 186 combined. Göppingen’s Marin Sego (87) and Daniel Rebmann (74) are approximately on the same level as Rangel Luan de Rosa. Berlin’s duo of Viktor Kireev (79) and Dejan Milosavljec (63) is quite far behind, but the Serbian Milosavljev has only played nine matches by now.
The coach: In 1994, when Patrice Canayer took over Montpellier Handball, Füchse Berlin coach Jaron Siewert was born - that fact says it all about stability in Southern France. In terms of loyalty Antonio Rama Garcia is the same perfect example - he never played at or coached another club other than Granollers, being head coach since 2018. And in terms of success as a player, Göppingen coach Markus Baur stands out by being world and EHF EURO champion and Olympic silver medallist. Siewert was the youngest coach ever to take over a Bundesliga team, he was 26 years old.
Fan factor: Playing the first ever EHF Finals without the participation of the host (SG Flensburg-Handewitt on this occasion) means many neutral fans will be in the arena. Playing the tournament right at the Danish border could be an advantage for Füchse Berlin, as four Danish internationals are part of their squad: Hans Lindberg, Mathias Gidsel, Jacob Holm (all 2021 and 2023 world champions) and Lasse Andersson. Mainly there is a huge Danish interest in Lindberg and Gidsel - and as the Füchse fans are famous for travelling to away matches, they might have the biggest crowd.
Talents: Montpellier, Berlin and Granollers are all famous for their youth programmes and bring on top talents every year - but looking over the current teams, Granollers definitely stand out; with the likes of Jan Gurri and Bruno Massana, one of the “Respect your talents” participants this year, the Spanish side have young top stars in their squad. Besides, 19-year-old Nigerian Faruk Yussuf is already the second best Granollers scorer in this European League season. And one of the biggest talents of the club has already left during this season; Pol Rivera, who joined big neighbours Barça during the winter break. Montpellier are currently reaping what they have sown with players such as Yannis Lenne and Kylian Villeminot, who had imprinted the French YAC teams in the past years and were silver medallists at the 2023 world championship. The Füchse squad includes five players of the German U21 team, which aims to become world champions at home this June/July (Lasse Ludwig, Tim Freihöfer, Max Beneke, Nils Lichtlein and Matthes Langhoff).
Experience: At the age of 41, Hans Lindberg is still running and scoring and scoring and running. The Dane just extended his contact at Füchse Berlin until 2024 - and then will return to Denmark. Before that, he will break a very special record: maybe even before the EHF Finals he will become the All-time top scorer of the German Bundesliga, having 2895 goals on his tally, he is just ten goals below Korean Kyung Shin Yoon (2905). Besides, Lindberg was EHF Cup and Champions League top scorer and is also one of two players who have won the “big 5”: Olympic Games, World Championship, EHF EURO, EHF Champions League and EHF Cup (besides his Danish compatriot Niklas Landin). When he was ruled out with a broken hand from February to April, Berlin signed Austrian Robert Weber (37), who just became the fifth player ever to score more than 2500 Bundesliga goals. In terms of age, Antonia Garcia (39) is just in between the Füchse veterans - and his eight goals in the second leg of the quarter-final at Flensburg provided Granollers with the ticket back to Flensburg.
Trophies: Winning the EHF Cup four times between 2011 and 2017, Frisch Auf Göppingen have the highest number of EHF silverware in their cabinet. Team captain Tim Kneule is the only current player who was part of all four winning teams. The remaining trio have each won two EHF trophies; Montpellier were EHF Champions League winners in 2003 and 2018, while Berlin (2015, 2018) and Granollers (1995, 1996) have won the EHF Cup twice each.
Season results: Füchse Berlin became the first team since the implementation of the European League to win all ten group matches, then added two wins in the play-offs, but almost stumbled after their so-far only defeat in the first leg of the quarter-final at Schaffhausen. Having a balance of 13 wins, zero draws and only one defeat, Berlin are ahead of Göppingen (12-0-2), the only team which won all four knock-out matches after the group stage. Montpellier have won 11 matches, tied once and lost two, while Granollers outcome is eight wins, one draw and five defeats - but the Spaniards knew when they needed to win.
Final tournament experience: Berlin play their eighth final tournament since 2012 in three different competitions: in 2012 in the EHF Champions League, in 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 in the EHF Cup, in 2021 and 2023 in the European League - and made it to five consecutive finals from 2015 to 2021, winning the trophy twice. When they lost a final, it was always against a German opponent: 2017 against Göppingen, 2019 against Kiel and 2021 against Magdeburg. Göppingen had an EHF Finals hat-trick from 2016 to 2018 and were part of the 2013 event, while Magdeburg have their third final tournament ahead after the EHF Finals in 2014 and the victorious EHF FINAL4 2018 in Cologne. Granollers was - like their semi opponent Göppingen - part of the EHF Finals in 2016.