dHe had omitted his characteristic diadem. He was recognized as having a long middle part and three days' worth of beard. Michael Hansen but of course when he took to the podium in Aalborg on Wednesday afternoon to announce to the handball world that he would end his career in the summer. That was no longer a surprise. Even before the European Championship in January, he had already revealed to the Danish media that this could be his last European Championship. He had previously told the newspaper Jyllands-Posten that he would give up handball if he lost the fun of the game.

It's not that far away yet, the 36-year-old said, but he'd rather stop a little sooner than too late: “I'm still 100 percent focused. But I have reached a point in life where other things are manifesting themselves to me. This includes the fact that my children are growing up and I want to see where my career takes me.”

“One of the best Danish athletes of all time”

Mikkel Hansen had already announced a few weeks ago to his club Aalborg Haandbold that he would not fulfill his contract, which will end on June 30, 2025. An adductor injury currently prevents him from playing. The Danish national coach Nikolaj Jacobsen He called Wednesday “a sad day for handball” and spoke of Hansen as the best Danish handball player of all time: “He is one of the best Danish athletes of all time.”

With Hansen as director, his precise passes, his shots from the defense zone and from seven meters, the glory of Danish handball began in the 2011 World Cup: the Danes came second and Mikkel Hansen was elected World Handball Player of the Year. .

Two more personal titles followed and many with the national team: European champion, world champion and Olympic champion. The quiet Dane always had the aura of a superstar. He led the team with few words and thoughtful actions. In the final of the European Championship held in Cologne at the end of January, the Danes lost to the French, and it was also the swan song of the decade of two great characters: Mikkel Hansen and Nikola Karabatic.

At the height of his career, Hansen earned his money in France at Paris Saint-Germain. In the last of these ten years there was a prolonged absence due to a blood clot in the lungs. Hansen had to take blood thinners. He returned to Denmark in the summer of 2022; He signed for the best club in Aalborg. There he could not assume the leadership role that was intended for him. Hansen missed the first half of the year after the 2023 World Cup in Poland and Sweden due to stress symptoms. Then speculation began about his return, which then unfolded relatively unspectacularly for the 2023/24 season.

Mikkel Hansen rarely participated in the really important games in the Aalborg shirt. At the European Championship, however, he once again reigned in proven form, allowing the much younger Simon Pytlick and Mathias Gidsel to perform in secondary positions, and he was a good distributor of the ball, calmer in the game. and an accurate shooter in penalty kicks. Mikkel Hansen traditionally leaves the defensive work to others.

Mikkel Hansen said on Wednesday in Aalborg that he would like to end his career after the Paris Olympics. But it is not so easy in a country like Denmark, where there are 15 professionals for the three defense positions. “I can't say now if he will be there,” said Nikolaj Jacobsen, “at the moment he is injured and if he recovers well, we will see what happens next.” There are no legacy farms in Denmark Handball. Mikkel Hansen will agree with that. In any case, he has found a good time to stop playing sports.

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