Although Dimitar Berbatov was an incredible player to watch in his prime, arguably, Barcelona’s legend Hristo Stoichkov is Bulgaria’s most successful soccer player ever.
Born in the city of Plovdiv, Stoichkov started his career at the small club of Hebros before making the jump to CSKA Sofia – one of the biggest teams in the country. He played six seasons for the Reds before being signed by Barcelona’s manager Johan Cruyff in 1990. This move opened the doors of global stardom for Stoichkov – he became one of the best players in the world.
Called “The Dagger”, today Hristo is one of the most adored players in Barca’s rich history. The fans loved him because of his passion and desire to win in every game. His qualities as a forward were undisputed – he was very quick and had a destructive left foot. He was pretty good at dribbling as well. This helped him score more than 100 goals with the Blaugrana jersey.
This article will present you with 10 interesting facts about Bulgaria’s best soccer player ever. Stay with us!
He’s the only Bulgarian player to win the Ballon d’Or
Hristo Stoichkov’s most significant individual success came in 1994 when he was awarded the Ballon d’Or – the most prestigious award in the soccer world. In order to win the prize, Stoichkov prevailed in the competition of Roberto Baggio and Paolo Maldini. It was the same year he led Bulgaria to the bronze medals at the 1994 World Cup and became the goalscorer of the competition.
He almost won the award in 1992 as well
While Stoichkov won the Ballon d’Or in 1994, he almost did it two years before – in 1992. Although it was one of the best years in his career, the Bulgarian striker got second in the vote – only behind the Dutch legend Marco van Basten. He won 80 points during the voting, while Van Basten collected just 18 more.
He’s the only Bulgarian to become the top goalscorer of a World Cup
In 1994,, Stoichkov helped the Bulgarian national team have the best performance in its history. Unexpected by anyone, Bulgaria reached the 1/2-finals of the World Cup in the USA. In the 1/4-finals, they beat the reigning world champions Germany, with Stoichkov scoring one of the goals. Barcelona’s striker finished the competition with 6 goals, making him the tournament’s joint-top scorer alongside Russia’s Oleg Salenko.
His career almost stopped in 1985
Right now, Hristo Stoichkov is a soccer legend, but his career could have been erased at a young age in 1985. This was when he was involved in a fight with Levski Sofia players during the Bulgarian Cup final. During this time, Bulgaria was a socialist country, and there was some severe punishment for such actions. And although there was an option for Stoichkov to be banned for life, he only got one-year suspension.
He stomped on a referee’s foot in his first season at Barcelona
Hristo didn’t take long to show his character with Barcelona’s shirt. During his first season at the club, he was suspended for two months after stomping on a referee’s foot. The Bulgarian striker disagreed with Urizar Azpitarte’s decision and shockingly attacked him. And while Johan Cruyff had to accept some criticism for signing such a player like Stoichkov, soon after this, everyone saw how good he was.
He was one of the first global stars to play in Saudi Arabia
Right now, everyone talks about soccer stars playing in Saudi Arabia. Still, Hristo Stoichkov was actually one of the players who paved the way. In April 1998, he signed a two-match contract with Cristiano Ronaldo’s current club – Al-Nassr. He even managed to score one goal for the Al-Alami. His next destination was Japan, where he wore the shirt of Kashiwa Reysol.
Stoichkov finished his career at the MLS
Saudi Arabia, the MLS – Hristo Stoichkov has done it all. Between 2000 and 2003, the Bulgarian legend finished his career in the American league. He spent two years at the Chicago Fire while playing one season for DC United as well. He scored a total of 29 goals during his spell in America. He was one of the biggest soccer stars in the MLS at the beginning of the century.
He broke a young player’s leg during his time at Washington
In 2003, Stoichkov had one of the darkest moments in his career as a player. The Bulgarian made a heavy tackle in a friendly game with DC United’s shirt. It broke the leg of an American University student. Four years later, the case was settled in court for undisclosed financial terms. And while Stoichkov says that he didn’t intentionally break the young player’s leg, the student called his tackle “criminal”.
He punched reporters in the face twice
Hristo Stoichkov always had problems with Bulgarian journalists as he doesn’t love them very much. In 2008, he punched in the face a photo reporter who tried to take a picture of him in a Barcelona restaurant. Four years later, he punched a Bulgarian journalist again – this time in Chicago. A day before that, he famously said, “Bulgarian journalists are the biggest idiots who deserve to get their heads smashed with a shovel”.
He failed as a manager
Soon after retiring as a player, Stoichkov became a manager. He coached the Bulgarian national team between 2004 and 2007 before getting relegated from La Liga with Celta Vigo. He also coached South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns and Bulgaria’s Litex Lovech. Right now, he’s living in Miami, where he’s working as a pundit.
He was accused of racism against a French player during Euro 1996
In 1996, Stoichkov scored three goals at the European Championship in England. Still, it wasn’t enough for Bulgaria to reach the knockout phase. In their last game in the groups, the Bulgarians suffered a 1-3 defeat against France. Stoichkov scored his team’s only goal in the game, but he was also accused of racism by France’s Marcel Desailly. According to Desailly, Stoichkov made some racist insults towards him.
Is Stoichkov Bulgaria’s best player ever?
Yes, we can say that Hristo Stoichkov is Bulgaria’s greatest player ever. He won the Ballon d’Or in 1994 and became the top scorer of the World Cup.
Did Stoichkov win the Champions League?
Stoichkov is the only Bulgarian player ever to become a European champion. In 1992, he helped Barcelona to win the European Cup for the first time.
Does he have a family?
Yes, Hristo Stoichkov is married. He also has two daughters and a few grandchildren.
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