EHF Champions League

Lazarov: "I'm coming out of my comfort zone."

Kevin Domas / ap

Lazarov: "I'm coming out of my comfort zone."

After seven years playing in Spain for Ciudad Real, Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona, Macedonian right back Kiril Lazarov decided to play in  another country and join Nantes this summer. Will it be a perfect match for the 2015 VELUX EHF Champions League winner and last year's quarter-finalists? Only time will tell. But the 37-year-old scoring machine and veteran of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 (see video below), is both confident and ambitious when it comes to his new team. What were the decisive factors when you decided to come to Nantes?

I played for seven years in Spain and I needed a new challenge, because a professional player who stays in only one place can be a good thing but it can also have a negative side. You can get into a routine and somehow lose your motivation. I decided to leave Spain, and studied which places could be good for me. I saw Nantes play last season and I thought 'Yeah, why not?'. I'm sure I chose the right team, with good players and an excellent staff. It's been a month since I started playing here, and I can say I made the right choice and that I'm really satisfied. Alberto Entrerrios is a man you played with previously, and he's now on the bench in Nantes. Was his presence something important when the time came to make your choice?

I played two years with Alberto in Ciudad Real. He's a very good person, an excellent coach, and he works very well with Thierry Anti. They know how to work with the team, how to talk to their players, and how to use tactics. I can't say his presence was key for me coming here, but I've already witnessed some interesting things, and the input Alberto has on the playing style. I'm sure I'll learn some things from him too. Did you feel like you were putting yourself in danger by leaving Barcelona?

Not at all, because Nantes plays modern handball. It's not like I was leaving to play in a second division team. This is a team that can compete with every team in Europe. Everybody, from the offices to the players, are very ambitious. We have a roster that will be able to cause problems to everybody in the Champions League, and also in the French league. It's not a surprise if players like Dominik Klein or Eduardo Gurbindo came to play here last summer. For me, signing for Nantes is about getting out of my comfort zone but not about taking risks. You have played in many top-level teams around Europe. Would you compare Nantes to any of them?

Nantes is still growing up, but in the last couple of months, maybe years, they have been on the same level as the biggest clubs in Europe. We'll see if we can do that again this season. Maybe around Europe the name isn't as famous as Barcelona or Veszprem, but I wanted to come to a club with a lot of ambition and who are still growing up. After the Champions Trophy, the first official competition you won with Nantes, you said that you had to be patient since the beginning of the preparation. Is it hard for a 37-year-old to be patient?

I've been patient all my career! When you arrive in a new team, it is normal to be patient. You have to work every day, to believe in what you're doing even though, due to changes, you might not succeed at making everything right. You have to trust your teammates and your trainers and to carry on working so your ambitions come to life. The only thing that's changed now is that I don't get frustrated anymore. I know that getting used to a new team takes time. Are you happy with how you've played in the preparation so far?

Yes, so far so good! I've only been here one month, we've played three tournaments and we won the French Champions Trophy. My family's happy, the handball's going in the right direction but I know that it will get better, step-by-step. You are meeting up again with Eduardo Gurbindo, who you played with in Barcelona. What kind of relationship do you two have?

We have the same relationship as we had before and he's helping me out a lot with the language. The boy's only been here one year but he already speaks French! It's easier for me to work with Eduardo, he's an easy-going person. To have guys like him, or David Balaguer, can only help dragging the team up, they're good people and good teammates. The two of them have got experience, as they've played in the Spanish national team. Chema Rodriguez, Didier Dinart, Luc Abalo, Alberto Entrerrios...does every Ciudad Real player have to come to play in France at some point in his career?

(Laughs) Petit à petit, tout le monde vient. I think that, for French handball, Ciudad Real and Atletico Madrid are a very good team because, back then, we were a winning team. And everybody can take advantage of players who have got the habit of winning. This experience, you cannot buy with money and it's kind of a win-win situation. It's no surprise if the players I played with at that point are at clubs doing great now. Jonas Källman in Szeged, all the Paris guys. I hope I can do the same thing here. What would be a successful season for you?

That's hard to say before the beginning of the season. For now, I hope we'll fight in every competition, have a good run in the Champions League, maybe win one or two trophies. I also hope that the group continues growing up and keeps getting better and better. This weekend, you will face your former team Barcelona in Palau Blaugrana. Will it be a special moment for you?

Of course it will. I played four seasons there and I have a lot of good memories. I will play against some very good friends of mine and it will be a pleasure to meet with them after the game. But I have to leave the feelings aside before and during the game. We've shown that we were able to compete against big European teams like Vardar Skopje and Rhein-Neckar Löwen and we want to prove this weekend, again, that we can play level with top teams in Europe. We all have to concentrate and not let the feelings get in the way.

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