Montpellier aim to celebrate 40th in style
Winning two Champions League in the last 20 years does not automatically make you a contender for a European trophy. Montpellier have learned the hard way, enduring mixed results since 2018.
While their 2018/19 Champions League campaign turned into a disaster, the French side did not manage to qualify for the European League in 2020/21, their first attempt in the competition since 2014.
With a team that has changed greatly over the last few years their ambition remains the same. Montpellier feature among the contenders, but maybe not as the favourites.
- this season is only the third since 2002 when Montpellier are not playing the Machineseeker EHF Champions League
- they reached the EHF Cup final in 2014 before qualifying for the quarter-finals of the European League in 2021, where they were defeated by Füchse Berlin
- last season, Montpellier reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League and finished fourth in the French league, behind Paris, Nantes and PAUC
- movements last summer included the arrival of French national players Rémi Desbonnet and Karl Konan, while Marin Sego and Gilberto Duarte both moved to Frisch Auf! Göppingen
- Patrice Canayer is currently coaching Montpellier for the 28th straight season, making him the longest serving coach
Most important question: How hard will it be for Montpellier to make the transition from Champions League to European League?
Just because you have played in the Champions League more than most clubs across the continent does not mean the odd European League season will be easy for you. Sure, Montpellier have plenty of experience, but with a team that remains a very young one, it will be interesting to see how some of the players will adapt.
“We know we are among the favourites, but we also know that everyone will be extra motivated before each game, so things will not be easy for us just because we are Montpellier,” admitted Patrice Canayer.
The French side had the opportunity to see what the season will have in store, after a tough qualifier against Sävehof. This is what Montpellier should expect in the group phase. Are we ready to bet that they are up to the challenge?
Under the spotlight: Hugo Descat
It was made official a couple of months ago that after moving back to France in 2019, left winger Hugo Descat would leave Montpellier, heading to Veszprem. At 30, the French Olympic champion rose to another level in the south of France, elected the French league’s best winger in 2020 and 2021.
He scored more than 70 goals over the last three Champions League campaigns with Montpellier, making him one of the most effective left-wingers in Europe. But before leaving, he intends to add more chapter to his time in Montpellier. Maybe by winning a European trophy?
How they rate themselves
When a competition boasts names such as Flensburg-Handewitt, Benfica, Füchse Berlin, Sporting, Skjern and Motor Zaporozhye, it is clearly hard to pick a favourite. But thanks to their collective experience and their individual talents, Montpellier clearly have a chance to make it to the Finals.
“Our aim is to progress as far as possible in this competition, which gets more and more difficult to win each season” coach Patrice Canayer said.
Captain Valentin Porte is even more bullish, “we fear no one, we respect everyone, so we’ll see how far that can take us.”
Did you know?
Montpellier are one of the very few clubs in Europe to have three professional goalkeepers with a running contract, a format coach Patrice Canayer implemented in 2019/20 with Nikola Portner, Marin Sego and Kevin Bonnefoi.
This season, Bonnefoi, summer signing Rémi Desbonnet and youngster Charles Bolzinger will fight for the two matchday spots, the third keeper remaining in the stands. It is a tough policy, but the perfect way for Canayer to get the best out of his goalkeepers.
No matter their age, only performance counts. From the start of the season, Bolzinger and Desbonnet have shared goalkeeping duties, with Bonnefoi the one left out.
What the numbers say
Montpellier is celebrating its 40th birthday this season and has risen to the occasion on various levels. Their jerseys have adopted a vintage style, reminiscent of the 80s, and the whole club is motivated to make the most of this special season.
“While we celebrate our anniversary, it is extremely important for us to make the best impression in the European League as this is part of the club’s DNA,” general manager Patrice Canayer said.
Canayer himself has written a huge part of the club’s history, as he is currently in his 28th season coaching Montpellier. Along the way, he has led the club to 39 titles, including two EHF Champions League.
Newcomers and departures
Rémi Desbonnet (Nîmes)
Kark Konan (Aix en Provence)
Stas Skube (Kielce)
Andreas Holst Jensen (Aalborg)
Giorgi Tskhovrebadze (back from loan at Pfadi Winterthur)
Marin Sego (Göppingen)
Gilberto Duarte (Göppingen)
Olafur Gudmunsson (Zurich)
Benjamin Bataille (Saint-Raphaël)
Karl Wallinius (Kiel)
EHF European League
Participations (1) : 2020/21
Quarter-finals (1) : 2020/21
Participations (5) : 2013/14, 1997/98, 1996/97, 1994/95, 1993/94
Final (1) : 2013/14
Quarter-finals (1) : 1996/97
Last 16 (2) : 1994/95, 1993/94
Last 32 (1) : 1997/98