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EHF Champions League

Montpellier are back and hungry for success

EHF / Kevin Domas

The only French club to have lifted the EHF Champions League trophy is back in the top tier, after playing in the European League last season.

It has only been three years since the successful 2018 campaign but it is a completely different team with only two core players left: Valentin Porte and Diego Simonet.

Main facts 

  • Montpellier are the only French team to have ever won the EHF Champions League and they did it twice, in 2003 and 2018
  • while only two players remain from the 2018 title-winning team, coach Patrice Canayer remains ever-present, starting his 27th season with the club
  • their 2019/20 season was stopped by Covid-19 at the Last 16 stage, while their 2019 campaign was halted at the group phase stage, a first for a defending champion
  • they finished second in the French league last season, behind champions Paris Saint-Germain

Most important question: Are Montpellier ready for their top-flight return?

Montpellier and the EHF Champions League have experienced a weird love story over the years. Sometimes they were madly fond of each other when the French side lifted the trophy in 2003 and 2018, but it also went through some more difficult times, such as their group phase elimination in 2019/20, a first for a defending champion.

Last season, the team from the south of France played in the European League, delivering a decent performance but failing to reach the EHF Finals. This campaign allowed the players to develop and gain some collective experience under the spotlight. With such a large number of young players in the squad, a year away from the EHF Champions League was exactly what the club needed and now they are definitely ready to upset the biggest names in Europe.

Under the spotlight: Kevin Bonnefoi

The French goalkeeper, aged 29, took his time reaching the top of the ladder. As he arrived in Montpellier in 2020, he stepped into Nikola Portner’s shoes before, last season, also overtaking Marin Sego in the race for the number one spot.

His European campaign saw him helping Montpellier grab important points and he almost qualified the French side on his own during the quarter-finals against Berlin. His performances throughout the season gave him his first games with France in the spring and there is no reason to suggest he cannot repeat those stellar performances this season.

How they rate themselves

Montpellier have never been the ones to shout their ambitions from the rooftops and the forthcoming season will not be any different. To get out of the group phase and confirm themselves among the twelve best teams in Europe looks like something Patrice Canayer and his boys can easily achieve. But if the young newcomers settle easily in their new environment, Montpellier will probably have an eye on a quarter-finals ticket.

Did you know?

Montpellier’s fans count as the most faithful in Europe. Their supporters travel all around Europe every season and have forged strong bonds with many other fans across Europe.

They are led by Gerard, a man that can lead a 3500-people sold-out arena just by the power of his voice, not using any kind of microphone. And he has done so for the past fifteen years.

What the numbers say

27 seasons. Patrice Canayer will be starting his 27th season with the club in the next few days and no other coach across Europe can claim to have done the same. While the 60-year-old might have had offers from other clubs over the years, he remained faithful to a powerhouse he joined in 1994.

“I might leave on the day ambition does not rhyme with Montpellier anymore. But luckily, this has never been the case,” he explains.

Arrivals and departures

Newcomers: Marko Panic (Meshkov Brest), Karl Wallinius (Lugi Lund), Lucas Moscariello (Cuenca), Olafur Gudmunsson (IFK Kristianstad), Veron Nacinovic (Celje)

Left the club: Melvyn Richardson (Barça), Jonas Truchanovicius (HC Motor), Alexis Borges (SL Benfica), Fredric Pettersson (Fenix Toulouse)

Past achievements

EHF Champions League:
Participations (including 2021/22): 23
Winners (2): 2002/03, 2017/18
Semi-final (1): 2004/05
Quarter-final (5): 2000/01, 2005/06, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2016/17
Last 16 (7): 1995/96, 2003/04, 2006/07, 2011/12, 2014/15, 2016/17, 2019/20

European League:
Quarter-final (1): 2020/21

EHF Cup:
Finalists (1): 2013/14
Quarter-final (1): 1996/97

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Quarter-final (1): 2001/02

French league: 14 titles (1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012)
French cup: 13 titles
French league cup: 10 titles

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