Balaguer: Barcelona represents ten years of my lifeArticle
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FEATURE: Spanish right wing capable of putting sentiment to one side as he and HBC Nantes prepare to face former club in Saturday's Match of the Week

Balaguer: Barcelona represents ten years of my life

FC Barcelona Lassa visit HBC Nantes this weekend for the ehfTV Match of the Week, a fixture which brings plenty of memories to the fore for the Spaniards living on the French Atlantic coast.

Eduardo Gurbindo and Kiril Lazarov flew in from the Catalan club over the last two summers, while David Balaguer made a small stop in Cuenca before landing in Nantes in 2015, perpetuating the tradition of Spanish handball players at “Le H”.

“I think that there is a connection between the club and Spain, because we do not quite play handball the same way as everyone else and it works very well here.

As a young player, seeing players like Valero Rivera, Jorge Maqueda and Alberto Entrerrios doing well here, of course you take a bit more notice,” recalls David Balaguer.

The right wing began his professional career in Barcelona and was on the fringes of the first team until he left in 2014. Being born and bred in Barcelona means meetings like Saturday's are still very special to him.

“I had a very nice welcome when we played in Palau Blaugrana in October, a lot of people from my family, like my parents and sisters, but also a lot of uncles and aunts, were in the arena,” he recalls.

“For sure, Barcelona has a special place in my heart. I was born there, it represents ten years of my life. But now, I am 100% a Nantes player and playing against Barcelona in front of something like 10,000 people will be huge event.

“We want to show that we can match with the best clubs in Europe, be it on the court or in our ability to create something special.”

Focused on the here and now

For David Balaguer, Barcelona means so much that he does not rule out the possibility to come back and play with the Blaugrana jersey on his shoulders someday.

“I do not want to be a hypocrite and if one day the phone rings and Barcelona are calling, I would be very honoured and would consider the thought with attention.

“This is the city I was born in, the club I started handball in so, of course, I would be interested, but now is not the time to give that too much thought. If the day comes, I will think about it, but I am only interested in Nantes now,” he says with a smile.

Saturday’s match is set to be a very special event indeed. It will be the first match in Europe’s top flight played in the XXL Hall, where Nantes has welcomed PSG for their league games for four years, setting an attendance record along the way for French league games.

It will provide the perfect setting for Nantes to avenge their 31:25 defeat to Barcelona in Round 4, when they let a five-goal lead slip in the second half.

“This is nice, but we want the result on the court first. We can play in a stadium, but if we lose by 20, I will be the saddest man,” says coach Thierry Anti, eager to put handball ahead of anything else in his players' minds.

It is clear his men listen to him, since they are on a four-match winning streak at the moment and stand second in Group A.

“It helps of course, because be it in the Champions League or in the French league, we have been building self-confidence, we play more relaxed than we did a couple of months ago. We had our chance in Palau Blaugrana, so why not try to create a surprise here,” Balaguer concludes.

TEXT: Kevin Domas / cor