Countdown: Kiel’s ambitions heightened with big arrival
“I want to win five titles in my first year at Kiel,” said Sander Sagosen when he arrived at THW this summer. As participants in the postponed EHF FINAL 2020 and one of the top favourites in the 2020/21 season, two Champions League trophies are in reach for Kiel in the coming year.
- After a five-year wait, THW took their 21st German title in 2019/20 following the decision to end the Bundesliga due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- In his first season as head coach, Filip Jicha was awarded best coach of the Bundesliga 2019/20 and centre back Domagoj Duvnjak was awarded MVP of the season
- In the VELUX EHF Champions League 2019/20, Kiel reached the postponed VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne by winning group B ahead of Veszprém – the first German team to top a group since Kiel themselves in 2014/15
- Kiel have won the Champions League three times and were finalists, finishing as runners-up, an additional four times
- Kiel were represented twice in the VELUX EHF Champions League 2019/20 All Star-Team, by goalkeeper Niklas Landin and right wing Niklas Ekberg
- Norwegian centre back Sander Sagosen (coming from PSG) is the biggest new arrival in the THW squad for some years
- Left wing Ole Rahmel (Benfica) and left back Lukas Nilsson (Rhein-Neckar Löwen) have left THW. Ekberg is out for three months after finger surgery
- THW Kiel will make their 23rd appearance in the EHF Champions League this season
Most important question: How will the new back court axis work?
Having two world-class playmakers such as EHF EURO 2020 MVP Domagoj Duvnjak and EHF EURO top scorer Sander Sagosen – and, in addition, Slovenian EHF EURO 2020 semi-finalist Miha Zarabec – means the coach has many options. The question will be the hierarchy.
Duvnjak and Zarabec knew that Sagosen would come when they extended their contracts, and Jicha will have to construct a perfect puzzle that also includes the shooters Nikola Bilyk (left back) and Harald Reinkind and Steffen Weinhold (right back).
Having all those options allows Kiel to use a huge top-class rotation in what is currently the world’s best club back court. And all players involved will profit, rather than being concerned about less court time or playing positions they usually do not.
Under the spotlight: Sander Sagosen
He is the biggest name since players such as Thierry Omeyer, Nikola Karabatic and Momir Ilic arrived in Kiel. Sagosen is the most complete attacking player in the world at the moment, and all handball fans in Germany have awaited his arrival at Kiel like the Messiah is coming.
The expectations are huge, like nothing seen for a single transfer since Karabatic. And the ‘King of the North’ is already experienced enough to withstand the challenges and fulfil expectations.
With Sagosen added to this top squad, Kiel are among the major favourites for winning the trophy, maybe even twice within some months.
How they rate themselves
Despite the outstanding squad and the Sagosen transfer coup, THW manager Viktor Szilagyi remains humble: “First of all, we want to play handball again. That is the biggest goal for the upcoming season. Besides that, it is really important for us to measure up to the best teams in Europe. We always want to be part of this strong competition. The EHF Champions League allows us to represent our team and German handball in front of millions of spectators all across Europe.”
Croatian Domagoj Duvnjak, one of three team captains, hopes for more than ‘just matches’: “The biggest motivation is the aim to finally play handball again and to show what we love. I’m really looking forward to the first match after months in a sold-out arena.”
One away game, on his home ground, will be an especially interesting duel for ‘Dule’: “Our first match will be in Zagreb. I played there for three years, and the last time we played in Zagreb was in 2015. It could be possible to meet my family and some friends. I would love to have time to drink a coffee with them.”
Did you know?
Since last season, THW Kiel have had three team captains, and two of them have been or are IHF World Player of the Year: Centre back Domagoj Duvnjak received the award for 2013, and goalkeeper Niklas Landin for 2019. The third captain is German international and line player Patrick Wiencek.
What the numbers say
Looking at the all-time ranking of the EHF Champions League, only Kiel’s group phase and EHF FINAL4 2020 opponents Barcelona and Veszprém are ahead of the German record winners.
In 290 Champions League matches, Kiel have won 193, drawn 20 times and lost 77 games. In 22 participations so far, THW made it to the semi-finals 12 times – reaching the finals seven times and the podium three times.
Newcomers and left the club
Newcomers: Sander Sagosen (Paris Saint-Germain Handball), Sven Ehrig (TSV Altenholz)
Left the club: Ole Rahmel (SL Benfica), Lukas Nilsson (Rhein-Neckar Löwen), Fynn Malte Schröder (TSV Kronshagen)
- EHF Champions League
Participations (including 2020/21 season): 23
Winners (3): 2006/07, 2009/10, 2011/12
Runners-up (4): 1999/00, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2013/14
Semi-final (5): 1996/97, 2000/01, 2012/13, 2014/15, 2015/16
Quarter-final (7): 1998/99, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2010/11, 2016/17, 2017/18
Group phase (2): 1994/95, 1995/96
EHF Cup: three titles (1997/98, 2001/02, 2003/04, 2018/19)
Champions Trophy: one title (2006/07)
German league: 21 titles
German Cup: 11 titles