28 Feb. 2022
2021 has been a special year in handball with plenty of impressive performances that yielded some of the best games in the history of the sport, both at club and at the national team level.
Therefore, the IHF are pleased to announce the nominees for the 2021 IHF Male World Player of the Year, with the shortlist being decided by a pool of experts, consisting of the top national team coaches and IHF experts, who earmarked the top players in men’s handball in 2021.
Players from four different countries are represented in the final shortlist, with reigning world champions Denmark boasting two players, the reigning Olympic champions France having one player listed, just like current European champions Sweden and Spain.
Alex Dujshebaev – Spain / Lomza Vive Kielce
The 29-year-old Spanish star is reaching the prime of his career and has been nothing short of sensational, especially in clutch time, when he basically took over Spain’s attack during the IHF Men’s World Championship 2021 and at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
18 of Dujshebaev’s 29 goals at Tokyo 2020 were scored in the second halves he played for Spain, with the right back also chiming in with 34 goals at Egypt 2021. In both tournaments, ‘Los Hispanos’ won the bronze medal, as Dujshebaev added to his increasing collection after three EHF EURO medals.
At club level, the Spanish back won the Polish national league title with Lomza Vive Kielce and scored 93 goals in the EHF Champions League Men, but failed to make the EHF FINAL4 in Cologne with the Polish powerhouse.
Ludovic Fabregas – France / Barça
This position has been becoming increasingly crucial in modern handball, with line players being the go-to players when the attack needs refreshing or the defence manages to keep the powerful backs in check. At 25 years old, Fabregas, who joined Barça in 2018, has been developing at the highest level and became a dual-pronged threat – an efficient attacking player, but also a very good defender.
Fabregas has shone at the highest level for France, becoming Olympic champion for the first time in his career at Tokyo 2020, where he was also named the All-star line player. The recognition for his great games came only a few months after he was also named in the All-star Team at the IHF Men’s World Championship 2021, where France have finished fourth, missing out on a medal.
At club level, Fabregas had a flawless 2021, winning the EHF Champions League Men for the first time in his career with Barça, never dropping a game, while also doubling up on the Spanish domestic league title and the Spanish Cup. Fabregas scored 60 goals in the EHF Champions League Men for Barça, where he was also named in the All-star Team for the 2020/21 season.
Mathias Gidsel – Denmark / GOG Håndbold
2021 has been a monster of a year for Mathias Gidsel, a player who made his debut for Denmark only in late 2020. He was truly impressive in his first-ever major tournament for Denmark, winning the gold medal at the IHF Men’s World Championship in January 2021, while also being elected the All-star right back of the competition, after scoring 39 goals.
Six months later, Gidsel missed the Olympic title by a whisker, as Denmark lost the final against France, but his versatility and his 46 goals with an outstanding 81% shooting efficiency lifted him to glory as the youngest-ever MVP of an Olympic handball tournament, sealing the award at only 22 years old. Touted as the next best thing of Danish handball, Gidsel’s superb games earned him a transfer to German powerhouse Füchse Berlin in the summer of 2022.
Jim Gottfridsson – Sweden / SG Flensburg-Handewitt
The last years have been amazing from Jim Gottfridsson, who has become the most influential centre back in handball. Winning the MVP award at the EHF EURO 2018 was just the start for Gottfridsson, whose dual-pronged attacking threat, both with his powerful shots and his creative passes, makes him nearly impossible to stop on a good day.
2021 has been especially great for the Swedish centre back, who secured the silver medal at the 2021 IHF Men’s World Championship with the Scandinavian side, while also earning his All-star Team nomination as the top centre back at Egypt 2021. At club level, Gottfridsson was named the MVP of the German Bundesliga and helped Flensburg qualify for the quarter-finals of the EHF Champions League Men. He was by far the biggest assists provider in the German league with 210, 63 more than the next player in the standings, while finishing 15th in the top scorer ranking with 177 goals.
Niklas Landin Jacobsen – Denmark / THW Kiel
No player in history has won the IHF Male World Player of the Year twice in a row, but Niklas Landin Jacobsen, Denmark’s goalkeeper, could be the first to seal the achievement after being named in the five-player shortlist for 2021. Landin, who secured the award in 2019 thanks to his amazing displays between the posts, can also become only the fifth player in history to secure the award twice and join the likes of Talant Dujshebaev, Ivano Balic, Nikola Karabatic and Mikkel Hansen.
Landin had a great 2021 under his belt, winning the gold medal at the IHF Men’s World Championship in Egypt, saving 64 shots for a 30% saving efficiency and being crucial in the quarter-finals against Egypt, where he saved shots from Ahmad Elahmar and Ali Zein in the penalty shoot-out that enabled Denmark to qualify for the semi-finals. The Danish shot stopper also secured the silver medal at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and won the German Bundesliga with his club team THW Kiel.
The IHF World Player of the Year awards are now back in full swing after the 2020 edition had been cancelled due to handball being ground to a halt throughout the year by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, the fan voting for the IHF Male World Player of the Year will run from Monday, 7 March, until 00:00 CEST on 28 March. The IHF will announce the winner on 28 March.