Power on the line, elegance from the centre in EHF Excellence Awards

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EHF / Björn Pazen

The newly-introduced EHF Excellence Awards will honour the best players in each position on the court, plus the best defender, in both men’s and women’s handball for the previous season.

The players which were selected in the final ballot were shortlisted via several criteria. First, the performances in the Machineseeker EHF Champions League, where a team of the round was named at the end of each week, with the top three players from each position who have received the most nominations by the end of the quarter-finals making the list.

For the EHF EURO 2024 Qualifiers, players who made significant contributions were also nominated, while additional players who performed in the EHF European League also got themselves on the shortlist.

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

The EHF Excellence Awards Gala Night, where the winners will be named, will take place on 26 June 2023 in Vienna.

Here, find out who are the nominees for the best line players and the best centre backs at the EHF Excellence Awards 2023.

Line player

Ludovic Fabregas - France / Barça

  • nominated five times in the team of the round in rounds 1, 2, 6, 10 and 13 - more often than any other line player
  • scored 66 goals and is among Barça’s best scorers, had his season high score with eight goals against Nantes (37:33) and a scoring efficiency of more than 74 per cent – and now is on track for his fourth Champions League trophy in Cologne
  • qualified with France for the Men’s EHF EURO 2024, as one of three teams with an unbeaten record of six points

Johannes Golla - Germany / SG Flensburg-Handewitt

  • was second best scorer for SG Flensburg-Handewitt with 50 goals in the EHF European League
  • was awarded German Player of the Year and named on the All-star Team at the EHF EURO 2022
  • was Germany’s second-best scorer in the EHF EURO Cup and is the team captain for the EHF EURO 2024 hosts

Victor Iturizza – Portugal / FC Porto

  • part of the team of the round in rounds 8 and 9, when FC Porto took a draw against SC Magdeburg and closely lost against PSG. In both matches Iturizza was Porto’s top scorer with seven and eight goals, his season high score
  • was overall top scorer of his side with 51 goals
  • a cornerstone for Portugal in the EHF EURO 2024 qualification to win six matches in the same number of qualifiers

Lukas Jørgensen - Denmark / GOG

  • one of the surprise packages in the GOG team which made it to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time. Jørgensen was named Player of the Match in the second leg of the play-offs, scoring seven goals in the 32:24 win to eliminate Aalborg
  • netted 85 times in the Champions League season, making him the second-highest scoring line player – although he was only the third best scorer for his team
  • made his senior national team debut at the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship, winning gold

Artsem Karalek - Belarus / Barlinek Industria Kielce

  • part of the team of the round in round seven, when he scored 10 goals in the 37:33 win against Elverum, his best score of the season
  • by netting 47 goals, Karalek is currently Kielce’s fourth best scorer in the Champions League
  • can defend his trophy as MVP of the EHF FINAL4 at Cologne in June

Veron Nacinovic - Croatia / Montpellier HB

  • a rising star in the European League and scored 41 goals, which were crucial for Montpellier to make it to the EHF Finals
  • scored four goals in four matches, including in the semi-final against eventual winners Füchse Berlin
  • is a tall and powerful line player, who made a huge step ahead since arriving from Celje in 2021

Kamil Syprzak - Poland / Paris Saint-Germain Handball

  • was part of the team of the round in round 4, when he scored nine goals from 10 attempts in the 40:31 victory against Zagreb
  • although he has only played 14 matches so far, he is the best PSG scorer with 91 goals, the fourth best scorer of the competition and the second best still in the tournament. His season high score was 10 goals against GOG and 91 goals is already his personal best in his whole career
  • a cornerstone of the Polish team in the successful EHF EURO 2024 qualification

Expert's view: When you only look at the goals and the scoring significance of these brilliant line players, you cannot miss out Kamil Syprzak. His role at PSG has increased tremendously in the past years and the tall Pole is playing an outstanding season. But then comes the but: when you talk about the complete variety of skills a modern line player has to have, including defence skills, Ludovic Fabregas stands out like no other. In this perspective maybe Johannes Golla would have been more in focus if his side had made it to the EHF Finals. Another but: in terms of fighting spirit and raging bull mentality, all nominees have to be mentioned, and on top of this ranking for me is Victor Iturizza. And Artsem Karalek? If we talk about duos, Kielce are on top with him and Nicolas Tournat.

Centre back

Luka Cindric - Croatia / Barça

  • scored nine goals in the first leg of the quarter-finals against GOG (37:30) and therefore was not only part of the team of the round, but also awarded MVP of this round
  • due to the high rotation at Barça, Cindric only scored 40 times in this season – which is already the same as in the 2021/22 season, and two matches are still ahead
  • scored 26 goals for Croatia in the successful qualification for the EHF EURO 2024

Igor Karacic - Croatia / Barlinek Industria Kielce

  • is currently the fifth best Kielce scorer in the Champions League with 42 goals, but is more a classical playmaker than a shooter
  • his season high score in the Champions League was five goals, both against Nantes and Aalborg
  • scored 26 goals for Croatia in the EHF EURO qualification

Gisli Kristjansson - Iceland / SC Magdeburg

  • Kristjansson is Magdeburg’s Champions League top scorer with 76 goals, but is set to miss the TruckScout24 EHF FINAL4 in Cologne, due to a broken ankle, which occurred in the first leg of the quarter-finals against Plock
  • named in the team of the round in round 10, when he scored his season high-score of nine goals and helped Magdeburg become the only team to beat Paris in Paris
  • in the top 10 of the EHF Champions League in terms of assists (with 15) and was by far Magdeburg’s best player until his injury, especially after fellow Icelander Ómar Ingi Magnusson was ruled out since February

Nedim Remili - France / Telekom Veszprém HC

  • Remili has scored 43 goals in the Champions League this season – 26 for Kielce, then 17 for Veszprém after transferring in February
  • became Veszprém’s top scorer in the second leg of the quarter-finals against his former club Kielce with seven goals
  • Remili has generally played at right back, but switched to the centre back at Veszprém to replace Petar Nenadic, who joined Paris in February

Diego Simonet – Argentina / Montpellier HB

  • he was the fourth best scorer for Montpellier in the European League season with 50 goals. His season high score was seven goals against both Presov and FTC
  • missed the EHF Finals due to an injury – one reason why Montpellier missed the trophy and the final at Flensburg
  • scored eight crucial goals in the quarter-finals against Sporting, which propelled his club to the EHF Finals

Luc Steins - Netherlands / Paris Saint-Germain Handball

  • the diminutive Dutchman is by far the clear number one of the Champions League in terms of assists (101, 6.31 per match), 36 more than GOG’s Simon Pytlick (65)
  • twice part of the team of the round: in round 3 when he scored three times at the 29:22 away win at Magdeburg, and in round 7, when he had his season high score with seven goals in the 41:36 win against GOG
  • alongside Magdeburg’s Kay Smits, Steins was crucial for the Dutch team on their way to the EHF EURO 2024 – their third consecutive participation.

Aleks Vlah - Slovenia / RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko

  • Vlah bowed out of the Champions League after the group phase as the top scorer with a total of 88 goals, by far the most for Celje. He is also ninth in the scorer point ranking with an additional 30 assists
  • twice part of the team of the round, first in round 2, when his 10 goals were crucial for the sensational 38:36 win against Kiel, and in round 11, when he steered his side to a 34:32 away win in Nantes
  • scored 21 times for Slovenia in the EHF EURO 2024 qualification and will play his first European championship in January

Expert's view: It is a pity that Gisli Kristjansson will miss the TruckScout24 EHF FINAL4 - the Icelander could have been the icing on the cake of this glorious event. He was in the form of his life before his ankle injury and is currently possibly the best centre back in the world. His magic moments are spectacular to watch, his goals, his assists, the whole way he plays. So, someone else has to take his role at Cologne – and I am sure Dutch ‘mighty mouse’ Luc Steins has the abilities to do so, mainly with his brilliant passes and the elegant way of playing. It is hard to identify the major task of a centre back: if it is scoring, then Slovenian goal machine Aleks Vlah would finish on top; if it is steering, the good old Croatians Igor Karacic or Luka Cindric would win. Unfortunately for him and the whole EHF Finals in Flensburg, former EHF FINAL4 MVP Diego Simonet could not play for Montpellier, which could reduce his chances.

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