Russian ‘Messi’ handball player leaves for foreign club – RT Sport News

Russian women’s handball star Anna Vyakhireva – who has been compared by some to Lionel Messi for her stature in the sport – has joined Norwegian side Vipers Kristiansand after leaving Rostov-Don in her native country.

The reigning Norwegian and European champions announced the capture of the Russian star on their website on Thursday, hailing her as a « big day » for the team.

« Anna can play in multiple positions and has extreme individual skills, » said Vipers head coach Ole Gustav Gjekstad.

“Furthermore, she has a good eye for the game and for her teammates. She is one of the very best players in the world.

« It’s a great day for all of the Vipers [family] that she now chooses to play for us.

Vyakhireva, 27, has long been hailed as one of the brightest talents in her sport. The right-back helped the Russian women’s team to Olympic gold at the Rio Games in 2016, following silver in Tokyo last summer. Vyakhireva has been named Player of the Tournament at both editions of the Games.

At club level, Vyakhireva played for Rostov from 2016, winning the Russian Super League five times, as well as a quintet of Russian Cup and Russian Super Cup titles. She also helped the team reach the EHF Champions League final in 2019.

Her performances have seen the 5ft 6in star compared to Argentine football icon Lionel Messi, with a YouTube compilation of Vyakhireva’s skills calling her a ‘Handball Messi’.

It’s a comparison respected Russian football coach Yuri Semin made when he praised the team for their performance at the European Championships in 2018, gushing: « Anna Vyakhireva’s Ball [skills] can only be compared to the dribbling of Lionel Messi!

Leaving Rostov, Vyakhireva paid a moving tribute in a farewell message shared on the club’s website.

« There were tears of joy from victories and the bitterness of defeat », said the starting star.

« I thank those without whom all this would not make sense, those who have always been there, our fans… It’s time to move on, but I’m not saying goodbye. You are forever in my heart! »

In return, the club described Vyakhireva as « fast, strong, brave, amazing and above all – loved. »

Vyakhireva now joins the Vipers, Norway’s five-time REMA 1000-ligaen champions who have won back-to-back EHF Champions League crowns over the past two seasons.

Vyakhireva’s decision means she will be able to compete in European competition next season, something she wouldn’t have been able to do had she stayed with a Russian team.

The European Handball Federation (EHF) banned all Russian and Belarusian teams from its competitions in late February, in response to Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.

The Russian Handball Federation (RHF) later had its appeal against the ban dismissed by the EHF Handball Court.

‘The most beautiful team in the world’: Russian women’s handball stars prepare for Euro final (PHOTOS)

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