Kneule, Lindberg, Garcia — experience imprints the EHF Finals Men
A trio of extremely experienced stars are in focus at the EHF Finals Men 2023 in Flensburg this weekend: Granollers’ Antonio Garcia Robledo (39 years) is the top scorer still in the competition and can win his first ever international trophy on a club level exactly 10 years after becoming world champion. Füchse Berlin’s Hans Lindberg (41) just broke the all-time scorer record in the Bundesliga and has won the Champions League and EHF Cup already, alongside World Championships and EHF EUROs. Tim Kneule (36) can become the first player ever in the second-tier EHF competition to win the trophy five times.
“Maybe I played my best season of the last years, maybe the best in my whole career,” said Garcia at the EHF Finals media call on Friday, underlining that “Granollers is the club for which my heart always beats.” He played for eight clubs in five different countries — but everything started as a 14-year-old boy at Granollers, where he played in the youth team and then the senior team until 2011. He has been awarded as the best left back in the Asobal league several times.
After a year at Ademar Leon, Garcia went abroad for the first time. He was at Paris Saint-German from 2012 to 2014 and then Pick Szeged before following his compatriot Carlos Ortega to KIF Kolding in Denmark. After a few months at Barcelona in 2017, he moved to CSM Bucuresti for a year, before returning to his home club Granollers for a season then moving to Nantes for a year. He then returned to Granollers and is currently his club’s top scorer in the European League with 81 goals.
“I have the great chance to win my first ever trophy on club level. This is a great motivation,” says Garcia, who was Granollers’ key to winning the second leg of the quarter-final at Flensburg, with eight goals. Now, he is back in Campushalle: “Playing on that level, which I played in the previous months, really boosted my confidence, so maybe my dream comes true.”
Of course, I am trying to support my young teammates with my experience. But I do not have in mind at first that I can win my fifth trophy. I am extremely happy to play on the European stage again, and we played very well until now. So I am even more happy to be at the EHF Finals.
Garcia will face the record-breaking team captain from Frisch Auf Göppingen in the semi-final: Tim Kneule. Kneule’s motto is “once in Göppingen, always in Göppingen.” The playmaker has been wearing the green and white jersey since 2006 and will have played 18 consecutive seasons in Göppingen by the end of his contract in 2024.
The international history of Frisch Auf is inextricably linked to Kneule — he is the only player who was involved in all four titles in the EHF Cup (2011, 2012, 2016 and 2017) and still plays for Göppingen. “Of course, I am trying to support my young teammates with my experience. But I do not have in mind at first that I can win my fifth trophy. I am extremely happy to play on the European stage again, and we played very well until now. So I am even more happy to be at the EHF Finals.”
It is never about my individual award and title collection — it is only about the success of the team. Every trophy has its own story. Now I am here to win; we are here to win a new one.
Another player was close to missing the season highlight, after breaking his hand in the group match at Irun: Hans Lindberg. But the 41-year-old Danish right wing, nicknamed “Hans Majaestet” (his majesty) was back earlier than expected. Last weekend, Lindberg made history as he became the all-time scorer of the Bundesliga by netting 12 goals against Minden and passing Korean Kyung-Shin Yoon (2,905 career goals) by two.
Lindberg is two-time world champion and double European champion, and has won the Champions League, the EHF Cup, the German league and the German Cup. He has also been top scorer in the EHF Champions League and the EHF Cup. But the new European League trophy is missing from his cabinet. “It is never about my individual award and title collection — it is only about the success of the team. Every trophy has its own story. Now I am here to win; we are here to win a new one.”
Füchse right back Fabian Wiede feels proud to be Lindberg’s teammate: “He is a true leader of our team, by his experience and the way he plays. You know that he scores when you pass him the ball, again, again and again.”