10 rising stars set to break into the elite
Judging by the quality and quantity of bright young players set to star for Europe’s top clubs, it is going to be a cracking year in the EHF Champions League Men.
Here are 10 players who have shown plenty of potential or have already shined in other competitions, but could be on the verge of having a breakthrough season in the top flight.
10. Felix Claar (Aalborg Handbold)
23-year-old Felix Claar has big shoes to fill as he arrives at last season’s surprise package Aalborg. He and 24-year-old Nikolaj Laesø have been brought in to take up the playmaker role and it will be fascinating to see who will thrive in such an important position.
The Swede will be expected to know the ropes in Europe having played for Sweden and experienced the EHF Champions League as a 17-year-old with Alingsas back in 2014. If he can prove his value early on and make the position his own, this will be a big year for Claar.
9. Diogo Silva (FC Porto Sofarma)
One of the hottest talents in world handball could not have gone to a better place for a handball Erasmus last season.
Silva was not given a free ride in Celje, having to fight for court time, but did fairly well in his first top flight campaign and will be expected to take the next step on his return to Porto, where the right back position is there for the taking.
8. Daniel Dujshebaev (ŁOMŻA Vive Kielce)
2019/20 was an understandably quiet season for the younger Dujshebaev brother, having only come back from a serious knee injury in November and playing a minor role behind Igor Karacic in the centre back position.
If the pre-season is anything to go by, coach and father Talent appears set to give Daniel a larger role this season and with new signing Haukur Thrastarson currently injured, the 23-year-old has an opportunity to claim some serious court time and combine with his brother Alex in this exciting Kielce squad.
7. Lasse Møller (SG Flensburg-Handewitt)
With this young Dane’s performances over the last couple of seasons, a move to the Scandi-laden German club was always on the cards.
53 goals for the left back was a very solid return for his debut campaign with GOG, but this move represents a higher level and much higher expectations. Forming a brand new left back pairing with Mads Mensah Larsen, Møller should see plenty of minutes and should be well-capable of passing the many tests facing him.
6. Lovro Jotic (HC Vardar 1961)
This is the fifth consecutive season Jotic will play in the EHF Champions League, but he has yet to truly settle or break through at this level.
The 25-year-old has moved clubs seven times in the last seven years, including two spells at Zagreb, one at Aalborg and last season at Eurofarm Pelister, so you would feel that a bit of stability in Skopje is what he needs in order to transform his clear talent as a playmaker into becoming a serious player for the reigning champions.
5. Luís Frade (Barça)
He is the only line player on the list and definitely one of the most exciting prospects. Barça’s new arrival turns 22 later this month and it could be the biggest year of his sporting life as he joins a club full of fully-fledged international stars.
He has had a couple of promising, if unspectacular, seasons with Sporting and will need to hit the ground running to make an impact early on, but he will be given a chance by Xavi Pascual and should learn heaps by training alongside Cédric Sorhaindo and Ludovic Fabregas.
4. Alexander Blonz (Elverum Handball)
He already has a world silver and EHF EURO bronze under his belt, but the Alexander Blonz has yet to truly begin.
The 20-year-old left wing had a very impressive debut season in the EHF Champions League, with tallies of nine against Flensburg and eight against Szeged among his 57-goal haul. He is well-able to find the back of the net against the big boys and we should see much more of the same this season.
3. Josip Sarac (RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko)
Usually when a Celje player has a good season in the top flight, they are immediately snapped up by a larger European club with a bit of cash to splash but to the delight of the club, this has yet to happen with Josip Sarac.
The Croatian left back scored 62 goals last season and Celje have done well to keep him put for a third season. Last season’s campaign may have been considered a breakthough, but I feel he needs a few knockout matches to truly test whether he is the real deal at this level.
2. Emil Nielsen (HBC Nantes)
It is only his second season with ‘Le H’ yet there is already talk of Emil Nielsen’s next big move. He has a couple of seasons at this level in the bag with Skjern and there will be plenty of interest in seeing how far he has progressed after a year in France.
Everything suggests this will be a breakthrough year for the Danish goalkeeper in the EHF Champions League and his pairing with Cyril Dumoulin between the posts is a solid foundation for Nantes to build a successful season in Europe.
1. Elohim Prandi (Paris Saint-Germain Handball)
Now here is a truly exciting prospect. Elohim Prandi has made a big step forward by moving to a club which usually tends to focus on signing the finished product.
Prandi is not the finished product yet, but he is still one hell of a player at 22. A monstrous jump shooter, who has no qualms with flinging in shots from 11 or 12 metres, expect Prandi to take to the EHF Champions League like a duck to water, all the while learning from the likes of Karabatic, Hansen, Remili and Kristopans.