Meet the team: Despite the loss of Blaz Blagotinsek and the long-term injury of Omar Yahia, the five times champions carry the favourite role again
Telekom Veszprem are the uncrowned kings of Zadar - as the Hungarian record champions won all six matches and all three editions of the SEHA – Gazprom League Final 4 in the Croatian coastal city. In 2020 (final against Vardar 1961), 2021 and 2022 (each against PPD Zagreb), Telekom Veszprem were unbeatable in Zadar and now are equal record winners of the SEHA League with five trophies alongside HC Vardar 1961. In six seasons of the SEHA League, Veszprem never lost any semi-final and were only once defeated in a final, in the 2016/17 season, by Vardar. In the two previous seasons (2014/15 and 2015/16), Veszprem had won the title twice.
At the SEHA Final 4 2022, Veszprem were represented by three players in the All-Star-team - Mikita Vailupau as the best right wing, Kentin Mahe as best centre back and team captain Rasmus Lauge Schmidt as MVP of the event. Lauge Schmidt currently has his final season for Veszprem - as he will return to his country Denmark in summer 2023 to join BSV Bjerringbro-Silkeborg. “My goal is to win all possible trophies with the team before I return to Denmark. This is the biggest motivation for me,” said Lauge at the start of the 2022/23 season. Like Lauge, all his teammates are eager to become sole record winners of the SEHA trophy, winning the title for the sixth time - and to fight for another ticket for the EHF FINAL4 in Cologne, after making it to the semis again in 2022, but lost against Lomza Kielce.
In the 2022/23 season of the Machineseeker EHF Champions League, Veszprem had a flying start, being unbeaten in the first seven matches, including six victories and a draw against German side SC Magdeburg. But sensationally, Veszprem lost their eighth group match against PPD Zagreb, their 2021 and 2022 final opponent in the SEHA League. After ten rounds and before the World Championship break, Veszprem are on course, being second ranked, equal in points with top team PSG Paris Saint-Germain.
But the Hungarian record champions, which lost the 2021 and 2022 league finals against Pick Szeged, have to cope with a huge setback for the rest of the season: Egyptian right back Yahia Omar is ruled-out by a severe knee injury (torn ligaments) and therefore did not only miss the World Championship in Poland and Sweden, but will also miss the remaining matches of his club. As besides, defence ace Blaz Blagotinsek left Veszprem before the start of the season and joined German side Frisch Auf Goppingen, they need to change their defence strategy.
Besides, Veszprem’s roster for the new SEHA League season will be the same as at Zadar in September 2022: Icelandic national team player Bjarki Mar Elisson joined Croatian national team player Manuel Strlek on the left wing position, on the right wing, Vailupau and Slovenian Gasper Marguc form another duo of international top-class. Blagotinsek’s position at the line was taken by Serbian international Dragan Pechmalbec, and youngster Zoran Ilic will now receive much more playing time on the right back position, and Egyptian new arrival Yehia El-Daraa has been integrated quite quick as new left back, at the side of experienced Serbian top scorer Petar Nenadic, while Lauge and Kentin Mahe are the same playmakers as in the previous years. And definitely Veszprem still have one of the best goalkeeper duos in the world of club handball: Rodrigo Coralles and Vladimir Cupara, who play their third season side by side for the Hungarians.
For sure, this is still a squad to fight for all potential trophies - coached by former Kiel and Veszprem player Momir Ilic in his second year. And already the future is certain at Lake Balaton, as Telekom Veszprem already announced the transfers of French Olympic champions Ludovic Fabregas (line player/Barcelona) and Hugo Descat (left wing/Montpellier) and the back court aces Lukas Sandell (SWE/Aalborg) and Agustin Casado (ESP/Melsungen) for summer 2023.