Austria     Belgium     Brazil     Canada     Denmark     Finland     France     Germany     Hungary     Iceland     Ireland     Italy     Luxembourg     The Netherlands     Norway     Poland     Spain     Sweden     Switzerland     UK     USA     

Two of the biggest stars in handball retire

Nikola Karabatic announced his retirement last year, and last week another of handball’s greats, Mikkel Hansen, told fans that after a career spanning almost 20 years, he too is hanging up his trademark headband. Both will go down in history as some of the best players in the history of handball.


Karabatic has been one of the most recognisable faces in international handball for the past two decades. Hailed by many as perhaps the biggest star of all time, Karabatic has collected an incredible array of trophies during his illustrious career: three EHF Champions League wins with three different clubs (Montpellier HB 2003, THW Kiel 2007, Barça 2015), as well as three EHF EURO, four World Championship and three Olympic titles with France. Nikola Karabatic is a legend in his sport by anyone’s standards. The handball player has written new chapters in his illustrious sporting history. The Paris Saint-Germain star announced in August that he will retire after the 2023/24 season. “Nostalgia will certainly come later, but for now, above all, I want to live this last year with you,” Karabatic addressed all fans in an emotional letter published last summer.

The sons of professional handball player Branko Karabatic, Nikola and his younger brother Luka, grew up close to the sport. Thanks to their undeniable talent, the duo eventually became the most famous pair of brothers on the handball court. Nikola currently plays as a left-back and midfielder for PSG and French international Luka, who is a regular for PSG and the French national team. Nikola Karabatic has played 71 EHF EURO matches for France and 38 matches in five Olympic Games – both records. During his career, he was named IHF World Player of the Year three times – in 2007, 2014 and 2016.

Selected for the French national team for the first time at the age of 18, the native of Nis (former Yugoslavia), Serbia, will have the opportunity to win his fourth Olympic title in his home country of the Blues. “All these years, I have given my heart and soul to this sport that I love and respect more than anything else,” he recalls, adding that he will do his best to “give 200%” at the 2024 Games in Paris.


“For almost 20 years now, I have had the privilege of making a living from the sport I love. I have represented the biggest clubs in the world. I’ve always said that I want to stop the day when the game, the joy and the dedication are gone. That’s still the case. But I also think I’ve come to a place where I feel there are other things that appeal to me. So I feel like this summer is the perfect time to end my playing career,” said Hansen last week, who is truly one of the sport’s most prominent figures of the past two decades. The left-back won his first national team jersey in 2007 and has since made 266 appearances for Denmark, scoring 1,350 times. He helped Denmark to gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the 2019, 2021 and 2023 World Championships and the 2012 EHF EURO, as well as silver medals at the Olympics and World Championships and silver and bronze at the EHF EURO – including silver this year.

His individual titles include three IHF World Player of the Year awards in 2011, 2015 and 2018; MVP awards at the 2016 Olympics and the 2013, 2019 and 2021 World Championships; and numerous All-Star team awards at major tournaments. At the 2024 EHF EURO, Hansen became the all-time leading scorer, with 35 goals in the final, surpassing Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson and the aforementioned Nikola Karabatic with 296 goals in his career.

Hansen started playing handball in his hometown Helsingør as a junior, joining GOG in 2005 as his first senior club. He then played two years for Barcelona and a further two for Copenhagen before moving to Paris Saint-Germain in 2012 for 10 years, during which time he became one of the biggest handball stars in the world. He moved back to Denmark in 2022 to join Aalborg, where he has played in 68 matches and scored 356 goals. During his club career, Hansen has won numerous domestic league titles and cups, including nine French and three Danish titles. He finished runners-up in the EHF Champions League in 2017 with PSG and qualified for the EHF FINAL4 a further three times, but has never lifted the trophy.

He will probably last be seen at the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics, for which Denmark qualified by winning the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship. And let’s not forget that Aalborg are also in the quarter-finals of the EHF Champions League.