4 January 2017
Each week, we offer you a full portrait of one of the players that will be in the spotlights during the World Championships 2017, with the help from one of the four ambassadors of the competition. This week, Mikkel Hansen as seen by Philippe Gardent.
In less than ten years, Mikkel Hansen became the ultimate reference in the handball world. The hard-working Danish was able to build on his huge talent, to become the biggest handball star of the 2010s. He was chosen as the IHF World Player of the Year in 2011 and 2015, and was ranked 2nd in 2012, 2013 and 2014. After discovering top level with the Danish side Svendborg, Hansen was followed by many European clubs, but chosed to join Barcelona in 2008, a few weeks before turning 21. He really improved his game in Catalunya, but left the Blaugranas in 2010, after losing the Champions League final to Kiel. His destination was AG Copenhagen, who was aspiring, at the time, to build a Scandinavian dream team. But despite some encouraging results, the club went bankrupt two years later and Hansen was forced to leave. He then joined PSG, where he quickly became a key player. The unstoppable left back is currently racking up some impressive numbers : last season, he set a new all-time goalscoring record in both French championship (228) and Champions League (141). At this point, the only drawback in his club career is the fact he has never won the Champions League, but he won some big trophies with his national team. European Champion in 2011, Denmark won the Olympics in Rio last summer, thanks of course to Mikkel Hansen, named MVP of the tournament, and will try to win their first World Championship in France through the month of January. With the best player in the world within its ranks, everything seems possible.
Philippe Gardent about Mikkel Hansen
“I think he is indisputably the best player in the world right now. He’s got pure class and his style is unique. He is above everyone else, whether in terms of technique, vision or execution. Of course, he has some weaknesses. Defense is not his strong suit and he lacks a bit of power in his lower body. He’s not the most impressive player athletically speaking, but he has got a huge quality in his arm and wrist, which distinguishes him from the others, and he has this incredible understanding of handball. He’s also an extremely meticulous and demanding player, I could see that as I coached him for three years at PSG. He is equally demanding of himself as he is of others, he does not tolerate mediocrity. He always sets the bar very high. Mikki will always apply the same quality standards, whether he’s playing against Congo or against France. He’s leaving no room for approximation. I’ve rarely seen such a perfectionist player, day after day, and I think there is still room for improvement in his game…”
Mikkel Hansen and the 2017 World Championship
“It will be a great experience to play in the same country where I live. In that light it will be a very special World Championship for me. I really think it will be a great experience and that there will be a lot of handball fans in the venues. I believe that everyone in our team has gained a lot of self-confidence with the Olympic title. There’s a lot of pressure coming up, and I hope everyone will be ready for that, because it’s obvious that everybody in Denmark, all the media, they are going to ask the same question : are we the favourites in France ? But I think that to win here against France will be very hard. According to me, France is the front runner, but I also believe that it will be great for us to come here as the Olympic champions. I think the draw is okay for us. All the teams in our group are good and we respect them, but I also think that if we play our best, we have a fair chance against them.”
The phenomenal play
To illustrate how much Mikkel Hansen’s right arm is phenomenal, here is one of his most marvelous goals, scored in October 2015 against Veszprem in the Champions League. Standing and almost without impetus, the Dane managed to fire a staggering hip shot, leaving the opposite goalkeeper, Mirko Alilovic, totally bewildered. Simply tremendous !