The Champions League Group C will, like Group B, feature three teams that have won the European crown.
Still, only one did it in the “wild card era ” – Ferencvaros in 2019. The Hungarians’ rivals in this group will be two namesakes – Jadran Split, Jadran Herceg Novi and qualifier Crvena Zvezda.
The Split-based club was the European champion twice in the early 1990s. Crvena Zvezda lifted the trophy in 2013. Jadran Herceg Novi’s biggest success is silver, won almost 20 years ago.
Ferencvaros is considered the favorite, not just to win the group. It has been a regular title contender in the last seasons.
The remaining three teams have been returning to the road of success, aiming to play the important roles in Europe again, after years without significant achievements on the international stage.
Ferencvaros has beaten both Jadrans and Crvena Zvezda convincingly in the recent Champions League matches, but it can’t expect easy points this season.
2024 Champions League, Group C
Roster: Soma Vogel, Daniel Szakonyi (goalkeepers), Stylianos Argyropoulos (GRE), Luca Damonte (ITA), Edoardo Di Somma (ITA), Gergo Fekete, Szilard Jansik, Dusan Mandic (SRB), Daniil Merkulov (RUS), Erik Molnar, Adam Nagy, Toni Nemet, Zoltan Pohl, Denes Varga, Akos Nagy, Bence Szabo, Bence Haverkampf, Vince Varga, Ferenc Pal Balla, Csongor Daniel Lugosi, Csanad Bella, Viktor Bator Pajan, Sebastyen Gergely Simon, Marton Janos Zeman. Head coach: Balazs Nyeki.
Transfers summer 2023
Arrivals: head coach B. Nyeki (was the assistant coach), D. Mandic (Novi Beograd), E. Di Somma (Brescia), A.Nagy (KSI), B. Szabo (BVSC)
Departures: head coach Zs. Varga (the Hungarian national team), N. Ubovic (Vouliagmeni), V. Vadovics (Honved), B. Varga (Miskolc).
Key players: Denes Varga, Dusan Mandic, Szilard Jansik, Soma Vogel, Stylianos Argyropoulos, Edoardo Di Somma, Zoltan Pohl, Adam Nagy, Erik Molnar, Gergo Fekete, Toni Nemet, Vendel Vigvari…
Last five Champions League seasons – 2023: 6th place, 2022: 3rd place; 2021: runner-up; 2020 (after 9 rounds): 3rd in Group B; 2019: winner.
Best results: Winner (2019), runner-up (2021), 3rd place (2022)
Trophies in other LEN competitions: 4x winner of Cup winners’ Cup (1975, 1978, 1980, 1998), 2x Euro Cup winner (2017, 2018), 4 x Super Cup winner (1978, 1980, 2018, 2019).
Results in other competitions in the season 2022/23– Hungarian League: 1st place, Hungarian Cup: 1st place.
2023 – Group B: 3rd place, 25 pts (148:141). Final Eight – quarterfinals: Ferencvaros – Pro Recco 4:8, semifinals 5th – 8th place: Ferencvaros – Brescia 9:8, 5th-place match: Ferencvaros – Olympiacos 4:9.
The biggest “transfer bomb” this summer “exploded” in Budapest. Dusan Mandic joined Ferencvaros after an unpleasant parting with Novi Beograd. Besides Mandic, a universal player, Edoardo Di Somma, one of the pillars of the Italian national team, arrived in Budapest. Both bring new energy to “Fradi”’s attack, which didn’t work well at the 2023 Final Eight.
Since it won its first Champions League, Ferencvaros has always been in a circle of title contenders. This year, Ferenecvaros has eight world champions, plus the aces of the Italian, Serbian, and Greek national teams. They all have many medals in their treasuries. Besides that, almost all are at the best age for achieving excellent results. The oldest on the team, Denes Varga, who will turn 37 in March, is still one of the best players in the world.
The team has a new head coach, but Balasy Nyeki has been part of Ferencvaros for long. He knows the system of play that his predecessor Zsolt Varga introduced – a different role of center forwards (Ferencvaros didn’t bring in a replacement for an experienced center, Nemanja Ubovic, which says that Ferencvaros will play similarly to the Hungarian national team).
As usual, the Champions League competition is strong, but it will be a surprise if Ferencvaros doesn’t play in the Final Four.
Roster: Ivan Marcelic, Mate Anic, Martin Celar, Duje Djula (goalkeepers), Luka Bukic, Matias Biljaka, Zvonimir Butic, Marino Cagalj, Antonio Duzevic, Loren Fatovic, Thomas Gruwell (USA), Konstantin Kharkov (RUS/CRO), Jerko Marinic Kragic, Duje Pejkovic, Djuro Radovic (MNE), Josip Vrlic Toni Radan, Vito Jankovic, Antun Pavlovic, Simon Pavlovic, Duje Cuzzi, Andro Galic, Sime Zilic. Head coach: Jure Marelja.
Arrivals: J. Vrlic (Radnicki), L. Fatovic (Jug), K. Kharkov (Brescia), Djuro Radovic (Olympiacos, was on loan in Jadran HN), Matias Biljaka (Jug), Thomas Gruwell (UCLA, USA).
Departures: Rino Buric (Jug), Ivan Domagoj Zovic (Barceloneta), Marin Tomasovic (Spandau 04), Andjelo Setka (retired),Niksa Dobud,
Key players: Jerko Marinic Kragic, Loren Fatovic, Luka Bukic, Konstantin Kharkov, Josip Vrlic, Ivan Marcelic, Zvonimir Butic, Mate Anic, Antonio Duzevic…
Last five Champions League seasons – 2023: 5th place in Group A; 2022: 7th place in Group A; 2021: Qualifications – 5th place in Group in Syracuse; 2020 (after 10 rounds): 7th place in Group A; 2019: 5th place in Group B.
Best result: 2x winner (1992 and 1993), semifinalist in 1994
Season 2022/23 – Group A: 5th place, 17 pts (142:141)
Results in other competitions in the season 2022/23 – Croatian League: 1st place, Croatian Cup: finalist, Regional League: finalist.
Only two Jadran players were born when the club won its previous two titles – Josip Vrlic and Ivan Marcelic. Since then, Jadran hasn’t had many successes. It didn’t win a single trophy between 1993 and 2022. Two years ago, the club’s politics started changing, and the ambitions got higher. In 2022, a long drought was ended by winning the Croatian Cup.
Last season, Jadran finally became the Croatian champion for the first time.
The national crown and the Champions League wild card were new stimulus for additional investment to the club and strengthening the roster. Jadran was one of the most active clubs in the transfer market this summer. Kharkov returned to the club, while Fatovic, Vrlic, Radovic, etc arrived. Almost half of the Croatian national team that won the European title in Split 2022 plays in the local club right now.
Many good things for water polo in Split have been done in the last two to three years, so the time for Jadran’s new golden era has come.
The Split-based team isn’t among the favorites for the title, but it has the right to believe it can reach the quarterfinal stage.
Jadran Herceg Novi
Roster: Darko Djurovic, Ilija Radovic (goalkeepers), Bojan Banicevic, Matej Caraj, Martin Gardasevic, , Dmitrii Kholod (RUS), Ivan Nagaev (RUS), Danilo Radovic, Vasilije Radovic, Matija Sladovic, Uros Vucurovic, Jovan Vujovic, Strahinja Gojkovic, Radizvon Zizudin, Lazar Vukicevic, Damjan Vujicic, David Stevovic, Dusan Vukovic, Meldin Hadzic, Tadija Matijasevic, Nikola Petrovic, Petar Popovic, Radivoj Radanovic, Danilo Stupar. Head coach: Petar Radanovic.
Arrivals: D. Kholod (Spandau 04), I. Nagaev (Vasas), B. Banicevic (Crvena Zvezda).
Departures: D. Radovic (Jadran S), P. Khalturin
Key players: Martin Gardasevic, Dmitrii Kholod, Ivan Nagaev, Vasilije Radovic, Jovan Vujovic, Darko Djurovic…
Best Champions League result: finalist (2004).
Last five Champions League seasons – 2023: Qualification Round 2 (LEN Euro Cup Qualification Round 2), 2022: Qualification Round 2; 2021:6th place in Group B; 2020 (after 10 rounds): 4th place in Group A, 13 pts; 2019: Qualification Round 3 (LEN Euro Cup finalist).
Results in the other competitions in the 2022/23 season: the Montenegrin champion, the Montenegrin Cup winner.
Jadran Herceg Novi, the last champion of Serbia and Montenegro (2006), has dominated the Montenegrin water polo for years. Since 2014, it has won 17 of the possible 18 trophies on the domestic stage (it lost to Primorac in the 2022 Cup).
But, good results in Europe have been lacking. Jadran couldn’t keep its best players. From summer to summer, the team became younger and younger. However, the situation changed. The club became more vital in all fields. This year, almost all players from the team that won the “double crown” last season stayed at the club, and excellent reinforcements arrived.
Jadran Herceg Novi wants to come out of the shadow and cause the best European teams headaches. The Montenegrins can go far on the European stage this season, either in the Champions League or the Euro Cup.
Roster: Vladimir Misovic, Mihajlo Ivanovic (goalkeepers), Nikola Bursac, Aleksa Popovic, Rodoljub Gajic, Dusan Markovic, Gavril Subotic, Dusan Vasic (SRB/GEO), Drasko Gogov, Ivan Basara, Milos Vukicevic, Lukas Seman (SVK), Relja Dankovic, Vuk Milojevic, Marko Radovic, Viktor Savic, Djordje Zivkovic. Head coach: Aleksandar Filipovic.
Arrivals: D. Gogov (Noisy-le-Sec), N. Bursac (Valis)
Departures: V. Tankosic (Dinamo Tbilisi), B. Banicevic (Jadran Herceg Novi).
Key players: Vladimir Misovic, Dusan Markovic, Milos Vukicevic, Gavril Subotic, Dusan Vasic, Marko Radovic, Vuk Milojevic, Ivan Basara, Drasko Gogov, Lukas Seman…
Last five Champions League seasons – 2023: didn’t play (eight-finalist of the LEN Euro Cup), 2022: 7th place in Group B 2021: didn’t play (semifinalist of the LEN Euro Cup); 2020: Qualification Round 2; 2019: 8th place in Group A.
Best result: winner in 2013.
Trophies in other LEN competitions: the 2013 LEN Super Cup winner.
Results in the other competitions in the 2022/23 season: the Serbian Cup winner, the runner-up in the Serbian Championships.
Road to the 2024 Champions League – Group A (Hannover): 1st place, 12 pts. Results: vs. Honved 10:7, vs. Barcelona 14:9, vs. Apollon Smyrnis 12:10, vs. Waspo98 Hannover 14:6.
Crvena Zvezda closed one chapter of the Champions League history in 2013. Ten years ago, it surprised everyone and clinched the European title in the last season played by the former competition formula (before introducing the wild cards).
In the following years, Crvena Zvezda passed through a period of deep crisis, like all other Serbian clubs.
But the crisis is the past now. Crvena Zvezda got out of the lousy period step-by-step. Now, it has an experienced team that has mostly stayed the same for a few seasons. Practically, nobody stands out. Everyone makes a similar contribution to the results.
Last year, Crvena Zvezda’s goal was a spot among the top three teams in Serbia. Still, the Red Whites achieved more than that. They beat Champions League clubs Radnicki and Novi Beograd on their way to the Serbian Cup trophy and finished 2nd in the national championships. They stopped in the eight-finals of the LEN Euro Cup. If they hadn’t met Vasas, which eventually won the trophy, already in the Round of 16, they would have probably made a few steps further in Europe.
The Belgrade-based side was dominant in its qualification group in Hannover and played on a constant level. The Serbs proved they deserved a spot among the best 16 teams in Europe. If they keep the momentum gained in the qualifications, Crvena Zvezda can be a formidable opponent to many clubs with bigger budgets and superstars on their teams.