Mikkel Hansen, King retires without his most coveted crown. GETTY IMAGES

The story of the Aalborg HB left-back retiring from the Handball Champions League, the only title he still lacks, had already been written. Though reality outstripped fiction. His shot at the final buzzer of the final match against Barcelona hit the crossbar. It wasn't meant to be. At 36, he will no longer play in the competition. Hansen's next appearance will be at Paris 2024.

It is hard to imagine a crueler end for Mikkel Hansen, the Danish left back from Aalborg Handbold, one of the best handball players of recent decades. He has won every collective title and has been voted the best player in world handball for several years. Well, not all of them, in fact: the Champions League is still missing from his trophy cabinet, and last weekend he missed his last chance. 

It was his last appearance, as last year he announced his retirement after the Paris 2024 Olympics. He managed to reach the final of the Champions League, his favourite competition because it had always eluded him. He came up against Barcelona, the team he played for last year. However, the Spaniards did not give him a chance.

This edition was very even. At the end of the first half the score was 31-30. A free throw for Aalborg Handbold and Hansen goes to score. Mikkel Hansen's free-kick at the final buzzer hit the crossbar as Barça narrowly avoided overtime.

It was not only the last shot of the final, but also of Hansen's EHF Champions League career, as the Danish legend missed his last chance to lift the trophy before retiring. It was Aalborg's second final against the same opponents. Three years ago they suffered a record 13-goal defeat to Barcelona (36-23), but this time they came much closer. It was Barca's twelfth Cup.

They have regained their throne, if they ever lost it. However, for Hansen, it was a cruel way to say goodbye to his favourite competition. The King retires without his favourite crown.

Right-back Melvyn Richardson was named MVP. His five goals against Kiel and eight against Aalborg were key to Barca's triumph. The only match between the two German sides was the third-place play-off, which Kiel won 32-28 over Magdeburg.

Hansen's final shot in the Champions League in Cologne hit the crossbar. EHF
Hansen's final shot in the Champions League in Cologne hit the crossbar. EHF

"I think Mikkel was without doubt one of the best players in the attack," said Barcelona coach Carlos Ortega, as quoted by EHF. "He is a great shooter, he is a great decision maker, in the last period seven against six, he is a great decision maker in a lot of situations, especially now with Aalborg. So he is a player who deserves the best possible farewell."

Due to their history with Paris Saint-Germain, some have drawn parallels between his career and that of football star Kylian Mbappe. Hansen spent ten years with the French team. He won titles but never managed to win the competition.

Something similar has happened to Mbappe, who has lost a Champions League final and is yet to win one. Mbappe is still young and is now embarking on a new journey with Real Madrid. Hansen has run out of time.

Hansen collects his silver medal in the final in Cologne. GETTY IMAGES
Hansen collects his silver medal in the final in Cologne. GETTY IMAGES

With GOG Svendborg (2005-2008), FC Barcelona (2008-2010), AG Kobenhavn (2010-2012), Paris Saint-Germain (2012-2022) and Aalborg Handbold (2022-), Hansen has failed to lift the trophy.

Hansen has won it all, including Olympic gold at Rio 2016 and the last three World Cups. In 2011, 2015 and 2018, he was named the International Federation's Player of the Year three times. The Dane has been voted best player in the world, best player in the Champions League and top scorer, but has never won the title.

At the Paris Olympics in 2024, he will try to repeat his 2016 title with his national team. Hansen already has that medal; the one he will not win is the Champions League.