Barça call-up is “dream come true” for Nemanja IlicArticle
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FEATURE: The Serbian left wing, who swapped Toulouse for the Spanish powerhouse to replace Casper Mortensen, returns to France with his new club to play against Montpellier HB this weekend
»2018-19 Men's News

Barça call-up is “dream come true” for Nemanja Ilic

Sometimes, one’s misfortune can lead to the joy of another. And that is exactly what is happening right now to Nemanja Ilic. At Barça Lassa, the Serbian left wing is replacing Casper Mortensen, the Danish world champion who is out for the season after knee surgery.

“I want to thank Toulouse for giving me the opportunity to help Barcelona. It was not easy for me to leave, I was captain there, we had a tough first part of league, but I had a good talk with everybody,” Ilic says. “And the president, the coach and my teammates told me that if they had the opportunity, they would go, too.”

Not much time to settle in

So there he is, on the border of the Mediterranean Sea, enjoying the weather and a lot more. In fact, Ilic hasn’t had much time to settle as he was already on board in Veszprém, where Barcelona suffered their first loss after nine straight victories.

“The guys all did the job before I joined so now we have to put the nail in the coffin and get the first spot,” says Ilic, who played in the VELUX EHF Champions League twice before in his career, with Serbian side Partizan Belgrade.

Over the course of two seasons, he played against the likes of Flensburg, Montpellier, Hamburg and Kiel.

“That was amazing for me at the time, playing against all these huge clubs,” says the left wing, who is after fulfilling his next dream, playing the VELUX EHF FINAL4. “That’s a goal for every handball player of course, as it is to play the Champions League. It was a special moment to hear the music again after all these years.”

While he remained quiet for his first outing in Veszprém, Ilic scored seven times in the next Spanish league game and five against Kristianstad in the VELUX EHF Champions League last Sunday, a sign that he is already an integrated part of the team.

“That’s kind of easy for me. It is fast breaks and wing shots and everything I used to do at my former club. Just at a different level,” says Ilic, who has met a couple of players he already crossed paths with along his career.

He played in Toulouse for six months with Gonzalo Perez de Vargas while he also knew Jure Dolenec and Cédric Sorhaindo.

Playing in Barcelona is a dream

“Everybody has been really helpful so far. I’m very happy to play for Barcelona so I want to focus 100%,” he says. “Playing in Barcelona is a dream, I’ll be honest telling you that if I had to pick one club to sign, that would definitely be here.”

And if playing with Barcelona wasn’t special enough already, Ilic will travel back to France this weekend to play against Montpellier, a team where one of his best friends, Valentin Porte, plays.

And it seems like the warming-up has already started, as Ilic says: “We sent a couple of text messages over the last weeks, just for fun. I think that the last time I won in Montpellier with Toulouse was two seasons ago, so it would be nice to get back to winning this time.”

Photos courtesy of Barça Lassa / Sara Gordon

TEXT: Kevin Domas / ew