Gurbindo: “Playing Barcelona is a huge task, but Nantes have a small opportunity”
Although this is not Eduardo Gurbindo’s first meeting with his old Barça Lassa friends since he left the club in 2016, the occasion remains special for the 31-year-old. After crossing their path twice last season with HBC Nantes, he will do so again on Wednesday in the first leg of the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-finals.
“I played there four years. I know everybody – the players, the coach, the organisation. Wearing the Blaugrana jersey was a dream when I was little. Now, for sure, playing against such a team is a huge task, but I see a small opportunity,” says Gurbindo.
For the back-court player, his time with Barcelona represents some of his best handball days. Ask for his best memory and Gurbindo has the answer ready: “The 2014/15 season, when we won seven trophies. Not only were we good on the court, but we were also a bunch of friends. We were together, in the truest sense of the word.”
That year was the last time Barça lifted the Champions League trophy, beating Veszprém in an incredible final.
Although his days with Barça are something he remembers well, Gurbindo has been able to recreate a home away from home in Nantes, thanks to the French club’s signing of individuals who played in Spain in the past. Currently, four of them are wearing the ‘Le H’ jersey: Kiril Lazarov, Valero Rivera and David Balaguer being the other three.
“It’s very useful in terms of integration. Sometimes, when you spend a lot of time on the road and you’re not speaking the language, it can be boring. Now, we’ve created a small Spanish family,” explains the left hander.
And if Gurbindo had the choice as to which Barcelona player he would pick to join Nantes next? “Gonzalo Perez de Vargas,” he smiles, before adding that it would be nice to play with his fellow national team goalkeeper, but that he would not want to put any pressure on anybody.
After reaching the final in Cologne last season, Nantes were not sure what to expect this time around. Fellow French team Montpellier, who lifted the trophy at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 last May, did not even make it out of the group phase.
“Sometimes the season after such a successful one is hard to cope with. The start of the current season was tough sometimes, but it seems like the vibes are coming back at the right time,” says the Spanish EHF EURO 2018 champion. In the Last 16, despite losing by two in the first leg against Rhein-Neckar Löwen, Nantes managed to turn things around at home.
But now, Barça look like a completely different matter compared with the German side. “If you ask me, I’d say FCB are the favourites to win the Champions League this season,” says Gurbindo. Nantes did not finish first in their group as Barça did, and they certainly look like outsiders in this confrontation – but that does not mean they will not be able to pull off a surprise. After all, they beat Barcelona in the group phase last season.
“I want to play the return leg with options left. Winning would be a great thing, we would have something to play for in Palau Blaugrana. But even though we did it in the past, I think it will be tough. Barcelona look like a much better team this season,” concludes Gurbindo.Author: Kevin Domas / cg