National champions 2016/17 – Men Part 5: South-west
Part five of the six-part series focuses on south-west Europe, where FC Barcelona continued their long-standing dominance in the Spanish league, Challenge Cup winners Sporting raised their 18th domestic trophy and Kadetten defended their Swiss title for the fourth consecutive year.
Sporting win 18th title
Sporting CP started the 2016/17 season with new names and everything aligned to avoid mishaps. However, after a less-than-perfect first phase and some disagreements with the club, coach Zupo Equisoain left the team and was replaced by Hugo Canela.
FC Porto controlled the first phase of the national championship, as they led the competition undefeated. But they lost the lead in the last games, and Sporting took advantage of the slip and did not falter.
The likes of Carlos Ruesga and Matej Asanin stood out, especially at the end of the season, as Sporting went on to win the national championship in the final round against SL Benfica.
This season, Canela’s team also won the Challenge Cup, claiming the second European trophy in the club’s history with only victories in that competition.
Barcelona remain unstoppable
The team lead by coach Xavi Pascual continued their dominance this season, and have now won all the Spanish championships four seasons in a row. In 2017, they were again victorious in all domestic competition matches to tally 158 consecutive victories overall, and 121 in the league.
However, in the ASOBAL league, this season saw some close games for FC Barcelona Lassa. They won three matches by just one goal – home and away against Abanca Ademar Leon (the league runners-up), and versus Bada Huesca at Palau Blaugrana.
Barcelona also won the final of the Copa ASOBAL at Fraikin BM. Granollers in December and, after their VELUX EHF FINAL4 Semi-final defeat, claimed the Copa del Rey by beating Naturhouse La Rioja at the Final 8 in Copa del Rey in June in León.
They defeated Helvetia Anaitasuna to win the Spanish Cup Winner's Cup and Granollers to raise the Catalan Cup.
Captain Victor Tomas reached a milestone 50 trophies with Barcelona this season.
Kadetten raise fourth consecutive trophy
For the fourth time in a row and 10th overall, Kadetten Schaffhausen took the trophy in Switzerland. Coach Peter Kukucka’s team dominated the semi-final and final series, winning all six matches.
After eliminating Cup winners Wacker Thun with a 3-0 win in the best-of-five semi-final series, followed by the same dominance against Pfadi Winterthur in the finals, Kadetten defended their title.
Kadetten topped the tables in the regular season and finals rounds, then won the trophy in the trophy series with two wins at 30:26 and 31:18, followed by a 30:28 victory in extra time in the third match.
The trophy came after disappointment in the Swiss Cup, where they were eliminated by Thun in the semi-final.
Schaffhausen’s Hungarian international Gabor Csaszar, who was top scorer after the group phase of the VELUX EHF Champions League, was also top scorer in the Swiss league with 180 goals to earn the best player of the league award. Andy Schmid from German champions Rhein-Neckar Löwen was awarded Swiss player of the year.
Three in a row for PSG
For the third consecutive year, Paris Saint-Germain Handball finished with the champions’ crown. It was however, a close affair all season, as Nantes proved to be a tough opponent.
Nantes, who was defeated by Paris in the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16, were the only team to beat PSG twice this season – thereby causing the only two defeats in the league for Nikola Karabatic and his teammates.
But in the long run, Paris proved to be the best team and Nantes finished three points behind them, despite another win in the capital in the last game (37:38).
With 167 goals, Uwe Gensheimer was the top scorer of the season, and received the same award for the VELUX EHF Champions League (115 goals), though Paris were defeated by Vardar in the final.
As the only team in the principality, Monaco Handball plays in the French league. In 2016/17 they finished sixth in the Nationale 2 league – the equivalent of fourth division.
After a difficult start, the team ended their season with six wins in a row, allowing Monaco to stay in the same division for next season.
Aloysians reclaim crown
After Luxol won the championship trophy for the first time at the end of last season, Aloysians Prominent reclaimed the title in 2017.
The team were officially crowned champions following their 32:27 win in the last game of the season against La Salle, and were undefeated throughout the whole of 2016/17, recording 10 straight wins on their way to the trophy.
Aloysians were also victorious in the MHA Cup, beating Luxol 37:22 in the Super Cup Final in September.
Bozen return to the podium
Loacker-Volksbank Bozen are back on top after a one-year break from the highest place on the podium. Led by coach and former national team player Alessandro Fusina, Bozen defeated 2016 winners Junior Fasano in the final to claim the title.
Fusina last won the Italian title with Bolzano in the 2014/15 season. “This is a double satisfaction. The decisive step we made was winning against Fasano, who proved to be a great opponent, on their home ground.”
An interesting statistic: Bozen and Fasano in the men's Championship, and Salerno and Conversano in the women's league, have won a combined 13 of the 16 Italian titles awarded in the last eight years.
There is no national competition in Andorra and the only club with a senior team, Concordia Andorra, play in the Catalan regional competition system. They finished fourth in Group B of Quarta Catalana.