Veszprém go new path to European glory
For Telekom Veszprém HC, each EHF Champions League season starts with the feeling it could be the year they finally win the crown jewel of their impressive trophy cabinet.
But with major changes in the squad and on the bench for 2021/22, added to a tough draw for the group phase, it might well be another challenging task in the new season.
- the runners-up from 2002, 2015, 2016 and 2019 are still aiming for their first EHF Champions League title
- as the club terminated the contracts of Vuko Borozan and Nikolaj Markussen, question marks remain over the left back position
- former player and U-21 coach Momir Ilic starts his first season as head coach, succeeding David Davis after nearly three years in charge
- Veszprém are coming off a disappointing season, missing the EHF FINAL4 in June and losing the Hungarian league title to Pick Szeged
Most important question: Will the young prospects turn the team spirit around?
After a season which certainly did not go according to plan, Veszprém have opted for a structural change and a new approach. According to CEO Csík Zoltán, there is no problem with the individual quality in the squad but the team unity has to be improved.
The 2021/22 season marks the start of a three-year concept, integrating young Hungarian players and Veszprém academy graduates to the roster. Four youngsters have already been promoted to the first team for the season ahead, and it will be interesting to see how they can contribute to the team spirit and the overall performance, as there will be some serious challenges for Veszprém in the Champions League.
“This is the best championship in Europe and every team wants to play here, however only the best 16 can compete,” said Momir Ilic, the new head coach, who took over from David Davis in July and who will be assisted by Péter Gulyás.
The club has a tough task ahead in group B where they will face the likes of Barça, Flensburg, PSG, and Kielce. “The group is very strong. We have to start thinking about ourselves and I hope we will be able to achieve something,” Ilic added.
Team captain Rasmus Lauge has the desire to go all the way this season. He said "I don’t really think we need any motivation to play in the Champions League. It’s the biggest stage of them all and everybody wants to win it. Other than returning to the court and staying healthy, I want to win titles with this club."
Under the spotlight: Petar Nenadic
Petar Nenadic turned 35 in June, but don’t think the Serbian centre back’s role is becoming less important. He scored 79, 67 and 73 goals over the past three seasons, often carrying the team on his back as a one-man army. This year he will have to fill the void left by Vuko Borozan and Nikolaj Markussen in the left back position.
Playing with two centre backs might be a regular tactic in Veszprém throughout the 2021/22 season, and it will be crucial how Nenadic can develop his partnership with Máté Lékai and Kentin Mahé.
How they rate themselves
The arrival of Momir Ilic and the addition of young players will certainly bring much needed fresh energy to the squad, which is still among the strongest sides in Europe.
Last year they may not have succeeded but there is a constant hunger for Champions League glory at the Hungarian record champions.
Did you know?
The name Veszprém comes from the Slavic word bezprem, which means on the one hand ‘stubborn’. On the other hand, the prepositional meaning of bez is ‘without’ while the adjective prem means ‘straight’. So, according to linguists, the term bezprem means ‘uneven’, referring to the city’s surface.
The club might hope that their squad this season will rather be characterised by the first option: too stubborn to lose.
What the numbers say
25 years ago was the last time Veszprém did not qualify for the Champions League, in the 1996/97 season.
Arrivals and departures
Newcomers: Péter Lukács, Borisz Dörnyei, Zoran Ilic, Márk Bodor (all own youth academy), Adrián Sipos (Grundfos Tatabánya KC)
Left the club: Vuko Borozan (Al-Arabi SC), Daniil Shishkarev (unknown), Rogerio Moraes (S.L. Benfica), Kent Robin Tønnesen (Pick Szeged), Márton Székely (Eurofarm Pelister), Nikolaj Markussen (TTH Holstebro)
EHF Champions League:
Participations (including 2021/22 season): 27
Runners-up (4): 2001/02, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2018/19
Semi-final (5): 2002/03, 2005/06, 2013/14, 2016/17, 2019/20
Quarter-final (10): 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2006/07, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2012/13, 2020/2021
Last 16 (4): 1993/94, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2017/18
Group Phase (3): 1994/95, 1995/96, 2007/08
Cup Winners’ Cup: Winners 2008, Finalists 1997
SEHA-league: 2 titles (2015, 2016)
Hungarian league: 26 titles (1985-86, 1992-1995, 1997-99, 2001-06, 2008-17, 2019)
Hungarian Cup: 28 titles (1984, 1988-1992, 1994-1996, 1998-2000, 2002-05, 2007, 2009-18, 2021)