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Which professional men’s volleyball team is the best in the world?
Right now, you would absolutely have to grant that designation to Cucine Lube Civitanova of Italy’s Serie A1.
For starters, Lube won the 2019 FIVB Club World Championships last month, which by definition puts them on top of the professional men’s volleyball rankings. The squad also happens to be the reigning gold medalist of CEV Champions League and winner of the 2018-19 Serie A1 title.
To date, in the still young 2019-20 Italian league season, Lube has been nearly untouchable. The squad boasts a 13-0 record and has only gone to five with a Serie A team once. On its way to that club world championship, Lube lost just one match, to Zenit Kazan, but of course more than redeemed itself with a gold medal.
In Champions League, more of the same: a 2-0 record in Pool A with its next match coming up on January 26.
There is no I in team, but the individual pieces that make up the Lube roster are impressive. Go through the list of the top players on the best national teams in the world, and more likely than not, you’ll find those same guys suiting up for Lube.
From Brazil, there’s setter Bruno Rezende and 6-foot-7 outside Yoandy Leal. Bruno would certainly be included in any conversation about best setters in the world. He started playing professionally at age 16 and made his national team debut at 21—now 33, Bruno is a three-time Olympian and a world champion. Proving that he’s still got it, Bruno was named MVP and Best Setter at club worlds just last month.
Native Cuban Leal got his Brazilian citizenship in 2015 and was finally cleared to compete for Brazil in 2019. He joined Lube in 2018 after spending five seasons with top Brazilian professional team Sada Cruzeiro.
In fact, Lube has three former members of the Cuban national team on its roster, with 6-10 middle Robertlandy Simon and 6-7 outside hitter Osmany Juantorena, who now competes internationally for Italy, joining Leal on that list. Both men were named to the Dream Team at club worlds. In fact, with a total of four on his resume, Juantorena holds the record for highest number of FIVB Club World Championships MVP honors.
Former starting opposite Tsvetan Sokolov left the team at the end of the 2018-19 season to join Zenit Kazan, but instead of suffering without him, Lube seems to have simply reloaded.
Iranian opposite Amir Ghafour joined the squad at the start of the 2019-20 season, transferring after one season with True Volley Monza. The 28-year-old Ghafour has been a huge part of Iran’s growth in international competition, but incredibly, he wasn’t even the starter for Lube during club worlds. That designation went to 23-year-old Kamil Rychlicki of Luxembourg.
Rychlicki, whose father Jacek played for the Polish national team, began his professional career with VC Stassen in Luxembourg, then played a couple seasons in Belgium and made the leap to Serie A in Italy last year, playing for Ravenna. He finished club worlds as the No. 2 scorer on the Lube roster, trailing only Leal.
Middle blocker Mateusz Bieniek was a member of the 2018 Poland squad that won a world championship, and libero Fabio Balaso is an Italian national teamer.
I think by now you get the idea that Lube just has a ridiculous amount of talent, and so far, no one had been able to knock the team off its top spot. In the near future, Lube will be pursuing the Coppa Italia trophy, after failing to win it last year, and a repeat Italian league crown, not to mention Champions League glory, for the second year in a row.