Can stability carry PSG to first title?
After changing a large part of their roster last summer, Paris Saint-Germain Handball have not signed any new players ahead of the 2021/22 season.
But with important players on the verge of leaving the club, including Mikkel Hansen’s move to Aalborg Håndbold in 2022, is this going to be a crucial year for PSG in their hunt for a first EHF Champions League title?
PSG played at the EHF FINAL4 for the fifth time last June but have failed to lift the trophy on any occasion. Last season, they were upset by Aalborg in the semi-final in Cologne.
Starting as one of the favourites again, can PSG benefit from the return of Nikola Karabatic, who is back to his best form after knee surgery and helped France win Olympic gold in August?
- PSG qualified for their 10th Champions League campaign by winning their seventh straight French league title
- Paris played five of the last six EHF FINAL4 events, but reached the final only once – in 2017
- the French side did not sign any new players but welcomed the return of Sadou Ntanzi, who was on loan in Toulouse last season
- two key defenders left the club in the offseason: Viran Morros (Füchse Berlin) and Dylan Nahi (Lomza Vive Kielce)
Main question: Can PSG hit bullseye in what seems to be the last season of an era?
No less than five players have already announced that they will leave PSG after the 2021/22 season. Nédim Rémili and Benoit Kounkoud are set to join Kielce. Goalkeepers Vincent Gérard (to Saint-Raphaël) and Yann Genty have also started their last season in Paris. And Mikkel Hansen will be returning to his native Denmark to play for Aalborg next summer. There will be a new-look PSG from 2022 but the players leaving will be eager to do so on a high and end their stay at Paris with the trophy in their bag.
Under the spotlight: Luc Steins
Initially joining the club only as a replacement for injured Nikola Karabatic, the short Dutch centre back has quickly become a leading force. Luc Steins arrived at PSG just before Christmas 2020 with no Champions League experience whatsoever. But he made an instant impact with his unorthodox playing style. which confused many defenders. Stein will be in the limelight again when he aims to reproduce his form from last season in the 2021/22 campaign.
How they rate themselves
In a group where they will meet fellow EHF FINAL4 contenders Telekom Veszprém HC, Barça, SG Flensburg-Handewitt and Kielce, PSG will have to play their best in order to reach the two top spots, which would give them direct access to the quarter-finals. PSG manager Thierry Omeyer is ambitious: “Like every season, the goal is to give the best of ourselves, to go as far as possible in the competition and to reach the EHF FINAL4 in Cologne. It is a special window where we are keen to shine again.”
After the draw, Omeyer told the club’s website that the group was “very tough, with the title holders, Barça, as well as many clubs that want to go to the EHF FINAL4 every year. But it will be the opportunity to see some great matches for our fans.”
Did you know?
PSG’s EHF FINAL4 track record of five visits but no title is not a unique feat: Veszprém went to Cologne six times and are also still waiting for their first title – despite featuring in three finals. Still, hopes are high in the French capital. The EHF FINAL4 gives PSG a chance “to show the best image of Paris and of the club at European level, which is very important for us,” according to manager Omeyer.
Arrivals and departures
Arrivals: Sadou Ntanzi (Fenix Toulouse, back from loan)
Departures: Viran Morros (Füchse Berlin), Dylan Nahi (Lomza Vive Kielce)
EHF Champions League
Participations (including 2021/22 season): 10
Final (1): 2016/17
Semi-finals (4): 2015/16, 2017/18, 2019/20, 2020/21
Quarter-finals (3): 2013/14, 2014/15, 2018/19
Last 16 (1): 2005/06
EHF Cup: Quarter-finals 2006/07, Last 16 2003/04
French league: 8 titles (2013, 2015-21)
French cup: 5 titles (2007, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2021)