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Powerful back shooters vying for EHF Excellence Awards

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EHF / Danijela Vekić

For the first time, the best players from each position have the honour to be nominated for the EHF Excellence Awards, in both men's and women's handball for the 2022/23 season.

The players nominated for the awards were selected after different criteria based on their unforgettable performances during the season, whether it was the Machineseeker EHF Champions League, EHF European League Men, EHF EURO 2024 Qualifiers or featuring in the All-star Team at the IHF Men's World Championship 2023.

You can vote for your favourite player via the Home of Handball app until 5 June. Players, coaches, selected media, and fans are eligible to participate, with each group’s votes accounting for 25 per cent of the overall result for every position.

We already introduced the best goalkeepers and defenders but who are the best left and right backs this season? Let's find out.


Nikola Bilyk - Austria / THW Kiel

  • nominated after great performances with THW Kiel in the EHF Champions League, Bilyk netted 47 times in Europe's top flight with a place in the team of the round in round 9
  • the 26-year-old Austrian international was crucial for the German powerhouse in the win against HBC Nantes and a draw against Aalborg Håndbold with 10 and seven goals scored respectively
  • he was also an important link for Austria in the Men's HEF EURO 2024 Qualifiers - they were the first team to book a ticket to Germany and Bilyk was named in the Team of the Round after a top performance against Ukraine with 13 goals in two games

Antonio Garcia Robledo - Spain / Fraikin BM Granollers

  • the experienced left back joined Granollers in 2020 for a third time and has been an integral part of their success in the EHF European League Men, winning silver at the EHF Finals in Flensburg
  • Robledo finished the second-tier competition with 95 goals scored in 16 matches, an average of 5.9 goals scored per game with an additional 48 assists to his teammates
  • at 39 years old, he is one of the most experienced players playing at the EHF Finals Men and in the final against Füchse Berlin he was the top scorer with seven goals

Rasmus Lauge - Denmark / Telekom Veszprém HC

  • Lauge was named in the Champions League team of the round three times – in round 1, round 3 and the second leg of the play-offs
  • the Danish player was instrumental for Veszprém this season with 85 goals scored and 49 assists, helping his teammates to reach the quarter-finals of Europe's top flight and becoming top scorer for the Hungarian side
  • Lauge also had a role in four matches with Denmark at the IHF Men's World Championship where they took gold for the third time straight

Elohim Prandi - France / Paris Saint-Germain Handball

  • Prandi helped PSG reach the EHF FINAL4 with 78 goals so far this season and a place in the team of the round in round 14
  • excellent in both attack and defence, the French star was the joint top scorer in the second leg of the quarter-finals, scoring six times
  • the strong left back showed his capabilities also in the France national team – both in the Men's EHF EURO 2024 Qualifiers and at the IHF Men's World Championship where France won silver

Simon Pytlick - Denmark / GOG

  • Pytlick was key for GOG’s run to the Champions League quarter-finals and ahead of the final weekend, sits second in the top scorer standings (behind teammate Emil Madsen)
  • Pytlick missed the second leg of the quarter-finals against Barça but in 16 previous matches he netted a total of 94 goals and added another 65 assists to his list
  • being a rookie at the 2023 IHF Men's World Championship did not stop him earning a spot in the All-star Team after winning gold and finishing as the fourth top scorer of the tournament

Sander Sagosen - Norway / THW Kiel

  • even though he missed out on the start of the 2022/23 season due to a foot injury, since his return to the court in November 2022 the prolific playmaker was Kiel's strongest weapon in the knock-out stages of the EHF Champions League
  • the Norwegian international is counting down the days at Kiel before moving back home to Kolstad, and in Europe's top flight he scored 48 goals in 11 matches
  • his top performance against PSG in the first-leg match of the quarter-finals earned him a spot in the team of the round but his nine goals did not help Kiel to beat the French powerhouse

Szymon Sicko - Poland / Barlinek Industria Kielce

  • the second top scorer of the Polish side, Sicko was elected to the team of the round twice this season – in round 5 after eight goals scored against RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko and in the second-leg game of the quarter-finals after netting six times against Veszprém
  • going to his second EHF FINAL4 with Kielce, Sicko is among the top three scorers of the club with 67 goals and 16 assists in 15 games played
  • the 25-year-old also helped Poland to finish second in the Men's EHF EURO 2024 Qualifiers, losing only to group leaders France

Expert's view: To give a spotlight to only one player on the list would be wrong, as it is in every category. Each individual earned his place among the seven nominees after amazing performances this season and by being the important link to their sides. Putting everything on the side and looking just at the statistics, Rasmus Lauge and Szymon Sicko are leading the way with three and two places in the Team of the Week of the Machineseeker EHF Champions League, just like Simon Pytlick with his ease of play. However, we should not underestimate Antonio Garcia Robledo's excellence in the EHF European League Men as Granollers wrote history putting the spotlight back on the Spanish club after a sensational season.


Alex Dujshebaev - Spain / Barlinek Industria Kielce

  • a versatile player known for his powerful shots, Dujshebaev is always an important part of Kielce's play and this season he has scored 58 times with another 39 assists to his name
  • Dujshebaev was also part of the team of the round in round 4 against THW Kiel. In the high-scoring match he scored seven for the 40:37 win
  • his style of play and incredible movement was also shown at the 2023 World Championship, where he was named in the All-star Team after winning bronze with Spain

Mathias Gidsel - Denmark / Füchse Berlin

  • Gidsel joined Berlin in 2022 as one of the biggest signings for the club, but missed out on the start of the season due to a hand injury and made his return in round six of the European League. In the following 10 matches he scored 47 times
  • he won the title at the EHF Finals 2023 in Flensburg, scoring five goals in the final against Granollers
  • one of the best backcourt players in the world, Gidsel not only won his first European trophy this season, he also became a world champion with Denmark and was the MVP and top scorer with 60 goals at the 2023 World Championship

Dainis Kristopans - Latvia / Paris Saint-Germain Handball

  • the tallest handball player in the Champions League at 215 cm, Kristopans has used his size effectively this season as Paris made their way to the EHF FINAL4 in Cologne
  • with a total score of 80 goals, a scoring efficiency of 80.8 per cent, 40 assists and a strong offensive display, it is no surprise he was elected to the Team of the Round in rounds 6, 8 and 13
  • even though Kristopans is not known for his fast breaks, he netted five goals on the run this season

Emil Madsen - Denmark / GOG

  • Madsen was part of one of the best backcourt lines this season, combining with fellow Excellence Award nominee Simon Pytlick. Madsen is currently the top scorer of the Champions League with 106 goals
  • the young Danish player added another 38 assists and was part of the team of the round in round 2, the second leg of the play-offs and the first leg of the quarter-finals
  • he hit a double-digit goal score twice this season, scoring 10 against C.S. Dinamo Bucuresti and SC Magdeburg

Dika Mem – France / Barça

  • Barça are the only undefeated team this season in the EHF Champions League, having only a draw against THW Kiel. The in-form Mem played a huge role in the success by being the team's top scorer with 83 goals
  • the French international was on top of his game in every match of the season but his outstanding performances in rounds 3, 5 and 9 earned him a place in the team of the round
  • his significant role from the Spanish powerhouse was also transferred to the French national team – even though he played only five games at the World Championship, with 21 goals he helped to win a silver medal at Poland/Sweden 2023

Kay Smits - Netherlands / SC Magdeburg

  • the Dutch international always gave his best on the court throughout the season but after Ómar Ingi Magnusson's injury his importance for the team was even higher - SC Magdeburg would have had a difficult time without his 78 goals in Europe's top flight
  • 26-year-old Smits was part of the team of the round twice, in round 12 and the second leg of the quarter-finals. His out-of-this-world performance against SC Magdeburg reached all media after his 14 goals gave Magdeburg a 30:28 win against Orlen Wisla Plock and an EHF FINAL4 spot
  • he led the Netherlands to top spot in group 5 of the Men's EHF EURO 2024 Qualifiers, with a total of 41 goals

Faruk Yusuf - Nigeria / Fraikin BM Granollers

  • Faruk Yusuf joined Granollers in the summer of 2022 on a loan from Kielce and with his performance this season proved to be one of the best signings of the club despite being only 19 years old
  • Yusuf’s strong mentality and experience from the Polish club have come into the spotlight in Spain and with the help of experienced Antonio Garcia Robledo, he became the club's second-top scorer with 72 goals
  • his top performance of the season was against SG Flensburg-Handewitt in the quarter-finals of the EHF European League Men, netting 10 times in a 35:27 victory

Expert's view: A strong backcourt line can be crucial for the fast handball today and the seven nominees on the right back position are all known for their style of play, creating goal chances for their teammates while having a precise top shot. If you add the ones playing both ways, you get the players' worth of the title. However, with plenty of choices, some even not on the list, the choice is personal. From my point of view, Kay Smits' performances stood out but I can't go without mentioning the trio having a place in the Team of the Round three times – Dainis Kristopans, Emil Madsen and Dika Mem.

Main photo © Roland Peka

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