"Last season was not a one-off," says Anti
Looking back on the end of last season, Nantes coach Thierry Anti had a bittersweet feeling.
"Around the end of the season, we had a lot of injured players, including Alberto Entrerrios, we've had to play a lot of games in a short period and things could have gone better for us," explained Anti.
However, he and his team have been given a lucky break at the start of this season, thanks to a wild card place in the EHF Cup given by the EHF, entering at the second round of the competition with a tough draw against Partizan Beograd.
"This is a team that has played in the Champions League in the last two years.
“This is not the easiest of draws, but somehow I'm happy. We have to prove that last year wasn't a one-off.
“This competition has stepped up its level every year. To think that we could face Hamburg, who just won the Champions League, in the next round proves it all,” said Anti.
Transition in the squad
To face this increasing adversity, Thierry Anti has made some changes to his squad. Goalkeeper Arnaud Siffert has moved to league rivals Montpellier and Frédéric Dole has retired from professional handball.
Meanwhile, four new players have been brought in and the 54-year-old coach had plenty to say about them.
"Aymen Toumi is a left handed Tunisian winger and Garcia Rubio is a Spanish line player. Both are young but have got massive potential.
“Nicolas Claire's case is a little bit different. He's been ready to explode for a couple of years now and I hope it will happen this year. Finally, Gorazd Skof is going to bring all of his experience in the goalkeeper position,” said Anti.
Nicolas Claire, former PSG player, is really looking forward to playing with his new team.
"I'm coming back here with a coach that gave me my first minutes in the French league, Thierry Anti.
“We've worked together for three seasons and I'm very happy that we meet again here.
“Playing the EHF Cup is a bonus, since I think Nantes has the squad to go back to the finals this year. When you look at how many good teams are in the competition this season, it almost feels like a Champions League,” said the 26-year-old from Réunion.
Claire and his fellow new arrivals have been recruited by Anti for one reason: to finally bring a title back home.
"It's true that playing all these finals without winning a title is frustrating, but look at a club like Rhein-Neckar Löwen.
“They've had a tough time, they've seen clubs going ahead of them, they've had to wait, but here they are: winning the EHF Cup and qualifying for the EHF Champions League. That's the kind of thing we're looking forward to,” concluded Anti, who is hoping for a similar fate for his team this season.
TEXT: Kevin Domas / cor