Two days are left until the culmination of the season of the competitions for clubs.
On Thursday, the Champions League Final Eight begins in the Sports Centre “11 April” in Belgrade.
The list of the participating teams is almost the same as at the last year’s Final Eight, held in the same pool. Only Olympiacos, which finished in 7th place in 2021, failed to qualify.
Pro Recco, Ferencvaros, Brescia, Barceloneta, Jug, Hannover, and Marseille return to Belgrade and will be welcomed by a newcomer to the Champions League Novi Beograd. The Serbian team debuted in the Champions League this season. Still, it has been considered one of the favorites for the trophy since the beginning of the season.
Five of the eight clubs finished the domestic seasons with a “double crown”. Pro Recco, Ferencvaros, Barceloneta, Marseille, and Hannover won the national title and the Cup in their countries. Novi Beograd is the Serbian champion and the Regional League winner. Jug clinched the title n the Croatian League. Only Brescia hasn’t won a trophy this season yet.
Half of the eight clubs have won the title of the European champion – the record-holder Pro Recco, Jug, Barceloneta and Ferencvaros. Brescia and Marseille have LEN Trophy/Euro Cup n their treasuries. Novi Beograd and Hannover still haven’t lifted a trophy in the LEN competitions.
Find out all the important facts you need to know about the participating teams, facts about the most successful coaches and players, and more…
Last five seasons – 2021: winner; 2020 (after 9 rounds): 2nd in Group B; 2019: 3rd place; 2018: runner-up; 2017: 3rd place.
Best results: 9x winner (1965, 1984, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2021), 7x runner-up (1967,1970, 1972, 2006, 2009,2011,2018).
2022 – Group B: 1st place, 39 pts (200:100).
Results in other competitions this season – Italian League: 1st place, Italian Cup: 1st place.
Stars to watch: Aleksandar Ivovic, Francesco Di Fulvio, Luka Loncar, Marco Del Lungo (GK), Gergo Zalanki, Aaron Younger, Pietro Figlioli, Gonzalo Echenique, Matteo Aicardi,etc.
Head coach: Sandro Sukno
The same story repeats from season to season – Pro Recco has been constantly a favorite for the title in the Champions League. However, since LEN established the F6/F8 format, Recco triumphed just twice – in 2015 in Barcelona and last year in Belgrade. Recco’s goal is the Champions League trophy again.
Last year Recco returned to the throne after six years. But, a few days after the win over Ferencvaros in the Belgrade final, head coach Gabriel Hernandez left the club. Sandro Sukno accepted Recco’s offer and a big challenge to become the head coach of the water polo giant, although he was only 31 years old.
Everything with the new coach has worked well so far. Pro Recco has been keeping a high level of shape since the beginning of the season. There were not many downs and surprising defeats.
Last season, Recco had a perfect record in the Champions League – 13 wins in as many games. The reigning champion suffered one loss this season (to Jug in Dubrovnik), but it won 1st place in Group B quite convincingly with a +100 goal difference. Still, it should be mentioned that Recco didn’t have a real chance to take revenge for the defeat in Dubrovnik. Jug wasn’t able to arrive in Italy due to many Covid cases in the team,. Therefore, a win with a technical score (10:0) was awarded to Recco.
Recco won the “double crown” in Italy. It is highly motivated before the start of the Final Eight. The Italians’ next hurdle will be very high. They will play against Barceloneta in the quarterfinals. That game will be maybe the derby of the tournament’s first day.
Last five seasons – 2021: runner-up, 2020 (after 9 rounds): 3rd in Group B; 2019: winner; 2017 – 2018 didn’t play in CHL.
Best results: Winner (2019), runner-up (2021), 4x winner of Cup winners’ Cup (1975, 1978, 1980, 1998), 2x Euro Cup winner (2017, 2018).
2022 – Group A: 2nd place, 28 pts (154:138)
Results in other competitions this season – Hungarian League: 1st place, Hungarian Cup: 1st place.
Stars to watch: Denes Varga, Marton Vamos , Soma Vogel (GK), Luka Damonte, Nemanja Ubovic, Daniil Merkulov, Vendel Vigvari, Szilard Jansik,etc.
Head coach: Zsolt Varga.
Ferencvaros had a very strange season in the Champions League Preliminary Stage. It recorded three draws in the first three rounds. The 2019 champion beat Novi Beograd in the fourth round, which was a turning point. After that, the Hungarians played better and better.
However, they suffered two back-to-back losses on Day 9 and 10 – to Jadran in Split (7:9) and a debacle against Barceloneta in Budapest (7:17). It seemed that a spot at the F8 was an unattainable goal. But, Ferecvaros managed to recover and finish the season in an excellent way. Two great away victories (against Novi Beograd and Olympiacos) and two hard-fought home wins (against Radnicki and Brescia) put the Hungarians to 2nd place in the group.
The finish of the domestic season was excellent, too. Ferencvaros blew OSC away in the final of the Hungarian League. The Hungarians got into shape in time.
Last five seasons – 2021: 3rd place; 2020: Qualification Round 3 (semi-finalist in Euro Cup); 2019: 6th place; 2018: 7th place; 2017: 5th place.
Best result: 3rd place (2021), 4x Euro Cup/LEN Trophy winner (2002, 2003, 2006, 2016).
2022 –Qualifications – Round 2: 1st place in Group B (7pts), Round 3: Brescia – Barcelona 17:13 and 16:13. Preliminary Stage – Group A: 1st place, 30 pts (162:133)
Results in other competitions this season – Italian League: 2nd place, Italian Cup: 2nd place.
Players to watch: Christian Presciutti, Edoardo Di Somma, Vincenzo Renzuto, Djordje Lazic, Stefano Luongo, Nicolas Constantin Bicari, Vincenzo Dolce; Petar Tesanovic (GK), Boris Vapenski,etc.
Head coach: Alessandro Bovo.
Brescia hasn’t won a trophy this season, unlike the other seven clubs. In addition, Brescia is the only team at the F8 that doesn’t have a wild card and had to play the qualifications.
The second-best Italian club had to pass a lot of hurdles on its way to the Final Eight. It achieved a goal in style. Brescia finished atop the “Group of death”. Brescia suffered only two losses (to Novi Beograd and Ferencvaros). Some of the Italians’ most significant feats this season were a 6:5 win over Jadran Split, when they had only 10 players on the roster, including two juniors, and an 8:5 victory over Olympiacos in Piraeus.
Brescia failed to defend the title in the Italian League, but tiny details decided in the playoffs final. However, Brescia, which will open the tournament with a match against Hannover, has a team that is capable of great success.
Last five seasons – 2021: 4th place; 2020 (after 10 rounds): 1st in Group A; 2019: 4th place; 2018: 3rd place; 2017: 4th in Group B.
Best results: Winner (2014), 3rd place (2013, 2015, 2018)
2022 – Group A: 4th place, 27 pts (173:121)
Results in other competitions this season – Spanish League: 1st place, Spanish Cup: 1st place
Players to watch: Felipe Perrone, Alvaro Granados, Alberto Munarriz, Dani Lopez (GK), Unai Aguirre (GK), Miguel De Toro, Francisco Fernandez, Martin Famera, etc
Head coach: Elvis Fatovic.
Spanish champion played quite well throughout the season. But, it beat none of the other three qualified teams from Group A (Brescia, Ferencvaros and Novi Beograd) at home. Interestingly, all three games ended in a 12:12 draw. Primarily because of these results, Barceloneta finished in 4th place and will have a very demanding challenge in the quarterfinals, where it will meet Pro Recco.
Barceloneta has an experienced team guided by an experienced coach. They dominated in Spain this season and cruised to the titles of the national champion and the Cup winner. Barceloneta finished the domestic season in mid-April.
The Spaniards played only two official games in the last month and a half (against Jadran Split and Brescia). A lack of matches against strong opponents in such a long period may be Barceloneta’s disadvantage. On the other side, they had enough time to prepare for the Final Eight.
Last five seasons – 2021: 5th place; 2020 (after 10 rounds): 2nd in Group A; 2019: 5th place; 2018: 4th place; 2017: runner-up.
Best results: 4x winner (1981, 2001, 2006, 2016), 4x runner-up (2007, 2008, 2013, 2017), LEN Trophy winner (2000).
2022 – Group B: 3rd place, 31 pts (173:143).
Results in other competitions this season – Croatian League: 1st place, Croatian Cup: 2nd place, Regional League: 3rd place.
Stars to watch: Maro Jokovic, Loren Fatovic, Toni Popadic (GK), Konstantinos Kakaris, Alexandros Papanastasiou, Hrvoje Benic, Stylianos Argyropoulos, , Marko Zuvela, etc
Head coach: Vjekoslav Kobescak.
Jug has been a regular participant in the F6/F8 tournaments since 2015. But it hasn’t had many wins in crucial matches in Europe and in the national competitions in the last two seasons. It has lost several quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals. Still, last week, Jug won its first trophy after almost two years, beating Jadran Split in the final of the Croatian Championships. It returned on the winning track in big matches.
We’ll see if Jug is able to keep the momentum gained at the finish of the domestic season. Don’t forget, Jug is the only team that has managed to beat Pro Recco in the Champions League in the seasons 2020/21 and 2021/22 (11:8 in Dubrovnik in January). The Croats have proved many times that they could beat anyone.
It should be mentioned that Jug has played two tournaments in the pool “11 April ” this season – in the qualifications of the Regional League and at the Final Eight of the same competition (a total of eight games). This season, the pool in Belgrade has become Jug’s “reserve home field”, and the Dubrovnik-based team doesn’t need to adapt to the venue.
Last five seasons – 2021: 6th place, 2020 (after 10 rounds): 7th in Group B; 2019: 8th place (host of F8, 6th in Group B), 2018: 6th in Group A; 2017: 6th in Group B.
Best result: 6th place (2021).
2022 – Group B: 4th place, 21 pts (150:180).
Results in other competitions this season – German League: 1st place, German Cup: 1st place
Players to watch: Aleksandar Radovic, Marko Macan, Petar Muslim, Julian Real, Ivan Nagaev, Moritz Schenkel (GK), Darko Brguljan, Jorn Winkelhorst, Ante Corusic, etc.
Head coach: Karsten Seehafer.
Waspo Hannover has dominated in the German League in the last few seasons. However, with all due respect to the German champion, Hannover is an underdog in Belgrade.
Still, a team that qualified for the F8 for the second year in a row, shouldn’t be underestimated. An experienced team from Hannover caused some upsets this season (they ran over OSC in Budapest).
The Germans arrive in Belgrade without big pressure, unlike the favorites. That may be their advantage. In the quarterfinals, they will face Brescia, which had to recover from a defeat to Recco in the Italian League final.
Last five seasons – 2021: 8th place; 2020 (after 10 rounds): 6th in Group B; 2019: played in LEN Euro Cup (winner); 2018: Qualification Round 3 (semifinalist of LEN Euro Cup); 2017: QR 2.
Best results: 8th place in 2021, Euro Cup winner (2019)
2022 – Group B: 2nd place, 33 pts (170:119)
Results in other competitions this season – French League: 1st place, French Cup: 1st place.
Players to watch: Andrija Prlainovic, Michael Bodegas, Ugo Crousillat, Dejan Lazovic (GK), Ante Vukicevic, Uros Cuckovic, Thomas Vernoux, Igor Kovacevic, Vladan Spaic, etc.
Head coach: Milos Scepanovic
Water polo has a long tradition in France. But, the French clubs didn’t have a lot of success on the European stage before 2019. Everything changed when Paris was awarded the 2024 Olympic Games. The French aim to have a quality national water polo team. The clubs have strengthened their line-ups with quality foreigners, who help domestic players to develop. Marseille is a leader of a new French water polo wave.
Three years ago, Marseille became the first French club that won a trophy in the LEN competitions. The club has grown year by year. It had a magnificent season in the Preliminary stage. Marseille recorded eleven straight wins and finished 2nd in Group B, behind Pro Recco. Considering what happened in the previous several years, that result isn’t surprising.
The French won’t be the favorites in the quarterfinals against host Novi Beograd. However, it won’t be a big surprise if they reach the semifinals.
Last five seasons – didn’t play (eighth-finalists of 2021 LEN Euro Cup)
2022 – Group A: 3rd place, 27 pts (188:149)
Results in other competitions this season – Regional League: 1st place, Serbian League: 1st place, Serbian Cup: 2nd place.
Players to watch: Dusan Mandic, Dusko Pijetlovic, Gojko Pijetlovic (GK), Nikola Jaksic, Strahinja Rasovic, Angelos Vlachopoulos, Viktor Rasovic, Drasko Gogov, Radomir Drasovic, Nika Shushiashvili etc.
Head coach: Igor Milanovic
Novi Beograd was founded in 2015, but it has quickly grown into a water polo giant. The project of forming a strong team, Novi Beograd started two years ago. Last summer, the club signed contracts with several superstars and sent a strong signal that it had high ambitions.
But, something went wrong at the beginning of the season. Novi Beograd needed a lot of time to find its rhythm. After all, it always takes time for a new team to find the right track. Head coach Vladimir Vujasinovic resigned in the middle of the season. Dejan Jovovic temporarily replaced him. In February, Igor Milanovic was appointed as the head coach. As the end of the season was approaching, Novi Beograd played better and better. It reached an excellent shape. The F8 host won the Regional League and the Serbian League and finished 3rd in the Champions League Group A.
The latest results in all competitions are good encouragement for the hosts.
There is no doubt that Novi Beograd is targeting a trophy. But, other favorites have the same ambitions.
Igor Milanovic (Novi Beograd) is the most decorated head coach among the eight who will guide their teams at the Final Eight.
Milanovic is one of just a few persons who have won the Champions League (Champions Cup and Euroleague earlier) both as a player and a head coach. He clinched three titles of the European champion during his playing career (Mladost in 1990 and 1991 and Catalunya in 1995). Milanovic has coached two winning teams in the CHL – Partizan (2011) and Pro Recco (2015).
Vjekoslav Kobescak (Jug), like Milanovic, has won the Champions League as a player and as a coach. Kobescak was a member of the team of Mladost that won the crown in 1996. Twenty years after, he guided Jug as a head coach to the trophy at the Final Six in Budapest, when the Croats upset favorites.
Elvis Fatovic climbed the European throne playing for Jug in 2001 and 2006. However, Barceloneta’s coach still hasn’t won a European trophy in his coaching career. Between 2013 and 2021, he worked far from Europe. He was the head coach of Australia.
Zsolt Varga (Ferencvaros) didn’t win the CHL as a player, but he guided the Budapest-based team towards the title in 2019 as a head coach.
The list of the coaches who have won the Champions League concludes with the youngest one – Sandro Sukno. He won the 2012 Champions League with Pro Recco. Sukno started his coaching career in Primorac in 2020 and took over Recco last summer.
Igor Milanovic is the only of the eight head coaches with five Champions Leagues. The spectators in Belgrade will watch two aces who have won five titles of the European clubs’ champion- Andrija Prlainovic (Marseille) and Pietro Figlioli (Pro Recco).
Prlainovic has done it with four different clubs – Partizan (2011), Pro Recco (2012 and 2015), Crvena Zvezda (2013), and Szolnok (2017). Figlioli has clinched five trophies with Pro Recco (2007, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2021).
Dusko Pijetlovic, one of Novi Beograd’s pillars, has won four trophies. He won three titles in a row with three different clubs, along with Prlainovic, between 2011 and 2013 (Partizan, Pro Recco, and Crvena Zvezda) and climbed the podium with Recco in 2015.
Felipe Perrone, Barceloneta’s star and 2018 Total Player, has lifted the Champions League trophy three times with three different clubs (Pro Recco in 2012, Barceloneta in 2014, Jug in 2016). Recco’s Aaron Younger has achieved the same (2017 – Szolnok, 2019 – Ferencvaros and 2021 – Pro Recco). Pro Recco’s captain Aleksandar Ivovic has three Champions Leagues with Recco (2012, 2015, and 2021).
Several players who will battle for glory in the Sports Centre “11 April” have won the CHL twice. Among them are two winners of the Total Player Awards – Denes Varga (2017 – Szolnok and 2019 – Ferencvaros) and Dusan Mandic (2011 – Partizan and 2021 – Pro Recco). Last year, Mandic was voted the MVP of the Final Eight.
Besides Ferencvaros’s and Novi Beograd’s captains, the players who have two CHL in their treasuries are Maro Jokovic (2006 – Jug and 2015 – Pro Recco), Gonzalo Echenique (2014 – Barceloneta and 2021 – Pro Recco), Francesco Di Fulvio (2015 and 2021 – Pro Recco), Matteo Aicardi (2015 and 2021 – Pro Recco).
The most decorated players of all time are Djordje Perisic and Maurizo Felugo. Each of them has six gold Champions League medals in a treasury. Perisic won six titles playing for Partizan in 13 years (1963/64; 1965/66; 1966/67; 1970/71; 1974/75; 1975/76). Maurizio Felugo climbed the throne with Posillipo in 2005 and then won five titles as Pro Recco’s player (2007, 2008; 2010; 2012; 2015). Perisic played in all six finals in which Partizan triumphed. Felugo, who arrives in Belgrade as Pro Recco’s president, missed the final in 2015, but he received the gold medal.
The most successful head coach in the Champions League history is Giuseppe Porzio, with five trophies (2005 – Posillipo 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012 – Pro Recco). Porzio won two titles of the European champion as a player (1997 and 1998 – Posillipo).
The Final Eight will be held in the indoor pool of the Sports Centre „11 April“. For this occasion, the additional, temporary stands have been added, so the capacity increased to 1511 seats.
QF1: Brescia – Waspo98 Hannover (14:30)
QF2: Pro Recco – Barceloneta (16:30)
QF4: Marseille – Novi Beograd (18:30)
QF3: Ferencvaros – Jug (20:30)
5th – 8th place
Losers QF1 – QF4 (14:30)
Losers QF2 – OF3 (16:30)
1st – 4th place
Winners QF1 – OF4 (18:30)
Winners QF2 – QF3 (20:30)
For 7th place (12:00)
For 5th place (14:00)
For 3rd place (17:00)
All times are CET
Twenty-five clubs have won the Champions League. Ten clubs have clinched more than one trophy.
1963/1964 Partizan Belgrade (YUG)
1964/1965 Recco (ITA)
1965/1966 Partizan Belgrade (YUG)
1966/1967 Partizan Belgrade (YUG)
1967/1968 Mladost Zagreb (YUG)
1968/1969 Mladost Zagreb (YUG)
1969/1970 Mladost Zagreb (YUG)
1970/1971 Partizan Belgrade (YUG)
1971/1972 Mladost Zagreb (YUG)
1972/1973 OSC Budapest (HUN)
1973/1974 MGU Moscow (USSR)
1974/1975 Partizan Belgrade (YUG)
1975/1976 Partizan Belgrade (YUG)
1976/1977 CSK VMF Moscow (USSR)
1977/1978 Canottieri Naples (ITA)
1978/1979 OSC Budapest (HUN)
1979/1980 Vasas Budapest (HUN)
1980/1981 Jug Dubrovnik (YUG)
1981/1982 Barcelona (ESP)
1982/1983 Spandau Berlin (FRG)
1983/1984 Stefanel Recco (ITA)
1984/1985 Vasas Budapest (HUN)
1985/1986 Spandau Berlin (FRG)
1986/1987 Spandau Berlin (FRG)
1987/1988 Sisley Pescara (ITA)
1988/1989 Spandau Berlin (FRG)
1989/1990 Mladost Zagreb (YUG)
1990/1991 Mladost Zagreb (YUG)
1991/1992 Jadran Koteks Split (CRO)
1992/1993 Jadran Koteks Split (CRO)
1993/1994 Ujpest Budapest (HUN)
1994/1995 Catalunya Barcelona (ESP)
1995/1996 Mladost Zagreb (CRO)
1996/1997 Posillipo Naples (ITA)
1997/1998 Posillipo Naples (ITA)
1998/1999 POSK Splitska Banka (CRO)
1999/2000 Becej (YUG)
2000/2001 Jug Dubrovnik (CRO)
2001/2002 Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
2002/2003 Pro Recco (ITA)
2003/2004 Honved Budapest (HUN)
2004/2005 Posillipo Naples (ITA)
2005/2006 Jug Dubrovnik (CRO)
2006/2007 Pro Recco (ITA)
2007/2008 Pro Recco (ITA)
2008/2009 Primorac Kotor (MNE)
2009/2010 Pro Recco (ITA)
2010/2011 Partizan Belgrade (SRB)
2011/2012 Pro Recco (ITA)
2012/2013 Crvena Zvezda Belgrade (SRB)
2013/2014 Barceloneta (ESP)
2014/2015 Pro Recco (ITA)
2015/2016 Jug Dubrovnik (CRO)
2016/2017 Szolnok (HUN)
2017/2018 Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE)
2018/2019 Ferencvaros Budapest (HUN)
2019/2020 season canceled
2020/2021 Pro Recco (ITA)
Titles per clubs – 9: Pro Recco, 7: Partizan and Mladost, 4: Spandau and Jug, 3: Posillipo, 2: OSC, Vasas, Jadran Split, Olympiacos, 1: MGU Moscow, CSK VMF Moscow, Canottieri Naples, Barcelona, Pescara, Ujpest, Catalunya, POSK, Becej, Honved, Primorac, Crvena Zvezda, Barceloneta, Szolnok, Ferencvaros.