Spaniards take MVP and best scorer awards
Only once before has a goalkeeper been awarded the MVP award at the EHF FINAL4, but Barça’s own Gonzalo Perez de Vargas was elemental in his team’s success in Cologne. With 16 saves on Saturday in the semi-final against Nantes and 14 more in the final on Sunday, the 30-year-old did a perfect job to put Barça on top of Europe.
Another Spanish shot stopper, Arpad Sterbik, was the first goalkeeper to be crowned MVP at an EHF FINAL4 - in 2017, when he helped Vardar win their first EHF Champions League title.
This was Perez de Vargas’ second time lifting the EHF Champions League trophy, as he was part of the Barça team which won the title at the FINAL4 in 2011. But this weekend, he played a much bigger part than just being in the roster. In fact, Perez de Vargas has been key for Barça all season long.
And in Cologne this weekend, when he let Kevin Møller in for a few penalties, the Dane did an equally good job, giving the impression that the goalkeeping was more a team effort than anything else. But, at the end of the day, Perez de Vargas was presented the MVP award by the City of Cologne, becoming the first goalkeeper to pick up the prize.
“Gonzalo is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, he was very important this weekend. He had two incredible games, he deserves the award. He had some ups and downs during the last two years, but he worked very hard and proved this weekend he is one of the bests. I am very happy for him, it rewards the work he did during the last three seasons,” said Barça coach Xavier Pascual in the final press conference of the weekend.
The Barça goalkeeper will, in a few days, meet this season’s best scorer, whose trophy was presented by SELECT. Nantes’ Valero Rivera netted 95 times this season, including nine in the final weekend, to grab his first ever Champions League distinction.
Aged 36, he was crowned the best scorer at the EHF EURO 2016 but, this season, he was unstoppable. The Spanish left wing gave his best performance against Zagreb in the group phase, scoring 10, before netting another nine times against Kielce in the Last 16 return leg.
“I am very happy and very proud because this thing does not happen every day. I have to thank all my team, for the trust, for the great assists and for being behind my back all season. Of course, I would have swapped the award for a collective win at the FINAL4, but I’m very happy nonetheless,” Rivera said.