Dinart: "We owed a lot to Talant and Raul"Article
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UNSUNG HEROES: The first in the series detailing the heroics of lesser heralded players at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 begins with Ciudad Real and Atletico Madrid defensive specialist Didier Dinart

»EHF CL Channel »2015-16 Men's News

Dinart: "We owed a lot to Talant and Raul"

He may not be the biggest name in handball, but Didier Dinart was a key element in one of the best teams Europe has known in recent times.

The French defensive specialist only scored 54 goals in nine EHF Champions League campaigns, but when you ask him today about how he felt about being stuck doing the ‘dirty work’, Dinart is at ease to answer:

“I've always lived very well with the fact that I was in the shadows. I wasn't necessarily looking for the spotlight, there were players at Ciudad Real and Atletico Madrid that were doing the job greatly, I was just trying to match them in my own area.”

If you consider the fact that Dinart, nicknamed "master of defence" by the end of his career, played for nine years at the Spanish club, he must have been quite alright.

He reached the EHF Champions League final six times between 2006 and 2012, winning three along the way.

You might think that it was easy for the Ciudad Real team, with players like Arpad Sterbik, Olafur Stefansson, Siarhei Rutenka and Jérome Fernandez in the roster. But, if you listen to Didier Dinart, this constant success was down mainly to two persons.

“I think we owed a lot to the harmony built by Talant Dujshebaev and Raul Gonzales, our two coaches," thinks the man from Guadeloupe, an overseas French island.

“If you, for instance, consider the 2008 final, not matter how many known names you may have had in your team, nothing would have been possible without them.

“After losing at home against THW Kiel by two, we managed to win in Germany by six and win the trophy. And that is because our coaches gave us the keys to the game, both mentally and technically.”

No room for error

But after the victories in the home and away format, the Spanish side discovered, just like the rest of European handball, the magic circus that is Cologne and the VELUX EHF FINAL4.

With some misfortune it seems, since the three trips to the west of Germany resulted in two lost finals and a third place finish, but Dinart recalls an amazing experience.

"We'd known all kind of atmospheres before then, played in sold-out arenas, but this was something completely new to everyone," he recalls.

"There was no room for calculations anymore, no possibility to make up for errors. You played badly, you lost and that was it."

He remembers the first edition as being somehow one where his team had to adapt, but also as an event noone had ever seen before.

"You had all the best teams, all the best players in one place, over one weekend, for the handball fan I guess it was, and still is, a must," he explains. "It quickly became, in two years maybe, the major goal for all teams in Europe."

All masters in our departments

Speaking of the best teams, if you saw if you saw Ciudad Real or Atletico Madrid on the court, it would be difficult to say who the best player was in among this elite squad.

Of course, Olafur Stefansson scored a lot, but there was a collective impression of strength and it felt the same from the inside.

“No player impressed more than another," confesses Dinart. "We were all just masters in our departments, probably some of the best at the time. But piling up individuals is easy, while making them play together is another job. A job Talant and Raul were excellent at doing.”

The French defender recalls nobody was willing to take the spotlight for himself: "I think the atmosphere in the team is linked with how the coach worked. At Ciudad Real, Talant was honest with every single one of us and you could feel it both in everyday life and on the court on game days.”

This sincerity and this honesty are definitely elements of Didier Dinart's new life, since he became the assistant coach for the French national team in 2014.

After bringing his playing career to an end in 2013, following a last season with debutants Paris Saint-Germain, he decided to turn to a coaching career, one in which he uses what he learnt in Spain over the years.

"There's nothing worse than lying to a player, nothing worse than a player learning what you think of him through someone else," the 39-year-old explains. "I am sincere; I try to tell my players what I really think of them and to help them in the most honest way. That's, in my eyes, the key to success.”

PSG have the potential

And, of course, Didier Dinart will be paying close attention to the VELUX EHF FINAL4, in which PSG will be taking part.

“This FINAL4 format more difficult compared to what we played back in the day, and maybe that's why Atletico Madrid never won in Cologne," he says.

“It's hard to still be fresh on Sunday after such a high-level semi-final the day before.”

With Nikola Karabatic, Luc Abalo, Mikkel Hansen and Thierry Omeyer, does this French side resemble the Ciudad Real of old?

Could they enjoy a bit of beginners luck in Cologne and win the title at the first time of asking?

"They're one of the favourites, that's for sure. The way they're playing at the moment is very coherent; everyone has found his place. They've got the potential to go all the way and I wish them all the best,” Dinart concludes.

TEXT: Kevin Domas / cor