There are going to be many changes in Vardar's team for the next season. Many players will leave the club to chase new challenges all across Europe, but this generation of Vardar players will forever be remembered as one of the most successful teams we have ever seen.
Vardar are the most successful club in the history of the SEHA – Gazprom League. They won 4 titles, including the last two - which marks the most successful period in club's history. In the last two seasons, 2016/17 and 2017/18, Vardar have won 8 major titles- including the 2017 EHF Champions League. But this generation of players has done so much more than winning trophies. This generation of Vardar has inspired so many people. The players became role models for thousands of aspiring young handball players. They proved that it is possible to overcome everything, even when the odds are against you. When they were winning, Skopje, Macedonia and the entire region was celebrating. When they were losing, and it did not happen often, their fans were with them. That was perhaps the most apparent in Cologne in 2017. They went to Germany, perceived by many as outsiders, but they believed in success. Their fighting spirit brought them the title. Two last second goals in two days, would you believe it? In those two days in Cologne, they shocked the world. Not just the handball world, but the entire sporting community! Vardar changed the narrative, the outsiders did not just turn into winners. They turned into heroes, they became legends!
But everything has to end one day. And, so does this. These last few matches was the last we have seen from Vardar's current squad. The team will look quite different next season. New faces that will try to repeat the success. Is it ever going to happen? Is it even possible? Only time will tell. However, many players are staying - Stojanche Stoilov is probably going to be here forever, and he remains the captain.
The legendary Arpad Sterbik, who is probably going to be remembered as the best ever when it's all said and done, is joining Telekom Veszprem. The man who the EHF Champions League four times, has got another challenge ahead of him, and that is regaining the title in the Hungarian championship! For years, Sterbik was one of the best in the SEHA – Gazprom League - making 282 saves in 53 appearances, winning two titles and many other individual awards! But as he says so himself, the individual recognitions do not matter. At the end of the day, titles count. Being on the winning team matters, and that is the spirit that was so typical for Vardar.
One of the heroes from Cologne 2017, Luka Cindric is joining the European champions from 2016- TGE Vive Kielce! The 17/18 SEHA MVP of the regular season, and the 2018 Final 4 has joined Vardar in 2015, and quickly became one of the key players. He rapidly grew into one of the best players in the world, and there is no doubt he will continue to improve in Poland. He sure made his contribution felt in Vardar- as his tally stands at 201 goals and 100 assists in only 52 matches. And this season, he proved just how good he is. The bar is set really high.
The Spanish duo Maqueda-Canellas will stay together! Both Jorge and Joan are joining Pick Szeged, the newly crowned sensational champions of Hungary. Maqueda and Canellas both did incredibly well at Vardar and will be remembered by the fans. Canellas even won the SEHA- Gazprom League 2017 Final 4 MVP, after beating Veszprem in the final. The duo scored 214 goals combined, and brought even more variety in Vardar's multi-national community.
Two Serbian giants - Ilija Abutovic and Mijajlo Marsenic are departing for Germany! Marsenic has decided to join Fuechse Berlin, and Abutovic is going to RN Loewen. Abutovic is one of those players who have been in Vardar from the beginning, playing all seven SEHA seasons and winning four titles. For years, he was the best defensive player in the League and will be very hard to replace. The other key defensive piece was Marsenic, who joined Vardar in 2015. The pivotman has scored exactly 200 goals in the SEHA – Gazprom League and won two titles!
Most importantly, the man who pulled all the strings and was the author of Vardar's success - Raul Gonzalez, is also leaving the club. He achieved the unimaginable, won everything that could have been won and most importantly, put smiles on all the fans' faces. The head coach Raul Gonzalez will join Paris Saint-Germain, starting from next season. His replacement is his fellow national - Roberto Garcia Parrondo, who will try to build on Gonzalez's foundations.
In the last few years, Vardar proved that sport can push the limits and impact on everything beyond it. This was a story of underdogs who proved that winning against all odds maybe isn't impossible. The key point about this team is that they are true friends. These trophies were won by a group of incredible people whose relationships go far beyond the court. Their friendships are incredible, and that is what made them great. That is why everyone loved supporting them, their bond and spirit were incredible, and is something we will always remember about Vardar.
But the story is not over. Many players are staying, and Vardar will still have a very strong team. Perhaps not the strongest one, or as amazing as before, but the team will be powerful. That might turn out to be a good thing, they might be looked at as underdogs, and they know the feeling. They also know how to prove people wrong. Can they keep doing it? For Vardar, for Skopje, for Macedonia and the entire region- the story lives on. New era is set to begin, and we are all impatiently waiting!