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19.10.2016, 09:40◄ last page     

FEATURE: A mastermind who doesn't need rest? Kevin Domas investigates why the French marksman is just so important to the French champions...

Four reasons why Nikola Karabatic is essential for PSG

Since he came back to Paris in the summer of 2015, very few of PSG's games didn’t feature Nikola Karabatic.

Often coming back sooner than planned from injuries and playing sixty minutes per game, the superstar centre back has proved to be essential, often to the point where Noka Serdarusic leaves other players on the bench instead of giving Karabatic some rest. In four points, here are the main reasons why...

1. He is the mastermind of the team

This has been said before, and it will be said again. Nikola Karabatic being one of the, if not the, best player in the world, feels normal when he plays a lot. On the court, he's in charge of everything. He decides how to play in attack and is the first get stuck into the defence when needs be.

Again last weekend, against SG Flensburg-Handewitt in the VELUX EHF Champions League Match of the Week, his performance was terrific.

For a player who'd just been back from a muscular knee injury, his dedication and his intensity were impressive sights to witness. No matter how hard he was pushed and shoved, Nikola Karabatic would carry on playing. Such devotion has to be inspiring for his teammates, even the ones usually more reluctant to seek contact, such as Mikkel Hansen.

His refusal to bow down to defeat is an example underlined by many in the PSG squad and as soon as he arrived, he's become the leader of the pack.

But Nikola is not only an physical beast, he's got a brain too. Over the years, he has become better and better at choosing the best solutions not only for himself, but also for the other players in the team.

2. He has got the full trust of his coach

Nikola Karabatic is now in the same position as he was in FC Barcelona a couple of years ago, the first trustee of the team's game. A situation that is both aknowledged and accepted by everyone in the squad. Noka Serdarusic, the coach, speaks about him as his first relay on the court.

Not only because he can perfectly communicate with him either in German or in Serbian, a language both men speak fluently. But also because Noka is almost like a father to Nikola.

The two first worked together in THW Kiel and have been very close ever since. It was only a matter of time before they met again, and now that they're reunited, Noka is giving full credit to Nikola.

And he seems to be right to do so, almost all the time. But you can't stop the question popping up at the back of your mind: Wouldn't it do some good to Nikola if he just rested for a few minutes? It would, probably and it's not like there aren't options on the bench to replace him.

3. He would do almost anything for his team

If you watched the MOTW between PSG and Flensburg, you probably noticed that Jesper Nielsen was the only line player on the court for Paris, due to Luka Karabatic suffering a tiny knee injury.

Fair enough, but do you know what Nikola Karabatic said to the press after the game? “If Jesper had sufferred an injury, it was planned that I'd have to play as a line player.”

The image in your mind might make you smile, but that's just an example of dedication. In the same vein and during that game, he took defensive duties usually owned by his brother, replacing him in a position he's not too familiar with.

The boy's willing to do everything it takes to help his team win games, including things he's not too confortable with. But when you've got so much talent, a little of improvisation is not something that scares you.

4. He does not want to rest

In his thirst to help his team, it sometimes looks like Nikola Karabatic doesn't want to give his body the rest it deserves.

When he injured himself against Wisla Plock two weeks ago, the club announced that the centre back wouldn't be back before two to three weeks.

And just ten days later he was back on the court again.

“The coach told me to take a weekend off, it did me a lot of good, and there I am, fresh again,” he smiled after a convincing return performance against Dunkerque in the French league.

It is not the first time Karabatic has done that, apparently without any harm. And this is where the dilemma is for Noka Serdarusic: when you've got a player that good, with such a will to play how do you put him to rest? A problem the German-Croat technician will soon have to find an answer to...

TEXT: Kevin Domas / bc

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