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22.10.2015, 11:13
Mikkel Hansen celebrates birthday in the ’form of his life’
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FEATURE: As the Danish star centre back turns 28 this Thursday, players and coaches that have crossed his path say that Hansen has never been better
 

Mikkel Hansen celebrates birthday in the ’form of his life’

When Mikkel Hansen looks at the VELUX EHF Champions League top scorer list, he doesn’t have to look up, just down.

He tops it – together with HC Metalurg’s Janko Bozovic –, and the 43 goals he has scored in five matches to date are just one piece of the puzzle that make coaches and players say not only ‘Happy birthday, Mikkel’ but also that the centre back, who takes to the court for Paris Saint-Germain Handball, is currently in the form of his life.

One of the men, who has worked the longest with Hansen, is former Danish national team coach Ulrik Wilbek. He coached Hansen from 2008 to 2014.

From a weedy boy to the world’s best player

“When I started working with Mikkel in the national team in 2008, he was a very thin, weedy boy.

“However, joining FC Barcelona (in 2008) taught him the importance of physical training. He soon realised that if he wanted to play at Barcelona, he had to train physically, so he really benefited from his stay there.

“These days, after internationals, as soon as he finishes talking to journalists, he runs off to the fitness room to work out, as this is what works best for him,” Wilbek tells ehf-euro.com.

“Mikkel really developed following his stay at Barcelona, and at the World Championship 2011 in Sweden, he was outstanding. I think he was the best handball player in the world at that time.”

“After that, he was bothered by some injuries, but he came back even stronger, and right now, I think he is better than ever,” continues Wilbek who confirms the impression many people have that Hansen is not someone you get close to easily.

“Mikkel is a very shy person, and he is not a person who likes his personal life being on display in weekly magazines etc.

“Some people have regarded this as arrogant, but when you are as famous as Mikkel, many people want to have a piece of you, so to speak, so every now and then, you simply have to say no. In fact, Mikkel is not very good at that, but he has learned.”

Calm and mad

KIF Kolding Kobenhavn goalkeeper  Kasper Hvidt got to know Mikkel Hansen when played together in the national team as well as at AG Kobenhavn-

“Obviously, he is a player you like to have in your team, as he is so good at scoring goals. As a private person, he is calm and quiet guy most of the time.

“He is not the kind of player who shouts a lot in the dressing room or tries to spur his teammates on. However, he can get mad, if for instance, his teammates do not run back after losing the ball.

“He knows that he is good at certain things, and this also means that he has some expectations towards his teammates, particularly about getting the ball in situations where he has the best chances to score.

“He definitely has a temper, but that is because he wants to win like we all do. For the national team, he is probably more crucial than he ever was before,” says per Hvidt.

“There are not many who are like him”

Klavs Bruun Jørgensen has played with Mikkel Hansen as well as coaching him.

The current coach of Denmark’s women’s national team was Hansen teammate back in the days when both played for Danish top club GOG.

Some years later, Jørgensen trained AG Kobenhavn, and Hansen was one of his players.

“I see Mikkel as one of those really great individual stars, of which there are very few in the handball world.

These days, probably only Nikola Karabatic and Flip Jicha are in the same league as Mikkel,” Jørgensen says, who also remembers Hansen’s early days in handball.

“When Mikkel had his debut in the senior team of GOG, he still went to school, but it was obvious that school did not exactly have top priority for him.

“Therefore, a rule was imposed in the team, that if he hadn’t done his school work, he wasn’t nominated for the team.

“This was controlled very thoroughly, and I remember one occasion, when Mikkel had not handed in some assignments in time. As a consequence, he was left out of the team for the next league match.

“I also remember a very small looking Mikkel Hansen sitting in the stands at Gudmehallen, watching that game! I am sure he really learned some self-discipline from his time in that club,” says Jørgensen.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / ts
 
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