The Bulgarian football star Hristo Stoichkov officially finished his football-playing career on December 15th, and from January 1st 2004 becomes the Barcelona coach. He will be training the team players and will be responsible for the East Europe transfers. “It is much easier to give up playing today than it was 4 years ago when I was forced to leave the national team”, admitted Hristo, who is not going back to Bulgaria. His family remains living in the USA.
“I would be happy people to remember me for who I was on the football ground”, said Stoichkov. The last football game he played was a beneficial match, raising funds for ill kids.
Born February 8, 1966 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Stoichkov has performed at the highest level of club and international football throughout his career in Europe. He made his international debut on September 23, 1987 and recently retired from his countrys side with 84 caps and 37 goals for the Bulgarian National Team. His 37 goals rank second all-time for Bulgaria, 10 behind leader Hristo Bonev with 47.
He has been voted Best Bulgarian Football Player of the Year five times (1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994) and he was also named Best Bulgarian Athlete of the Year in 1994. His most awesome accomplishment came on U.S. and Chicago soil (Bulgaria vs. Greece June 28, 1994 at Soldier Field), as Stoichkov scored six goals at World Cup USA 1994 (tied for first place) and led Bulgaria to a 3rd place finish during the 1994 World Cup, USA 94.
The Bulgarians were the darlings of the tournament as they reached the semi-finals after defeating world power Germany in the quarterfinals. For his efforts with club (then Barcelona) and country, he was named the FIFA Footballer of the Year in 1994. Stoichkov was also a valuable part of the 1998 Bulgarian World Cup squad in France.
As good as his international career has been for Bulgaria, his club career has been just as spectacular. He started his professional career with the club of CSKA Sofia. He played five straight seasons for Sofia, appearing in 119 games and scoring unbelievable 81 times. His 38 goals in 30 games during the 1989-90 season led all of Europe in scoring that season, and for his efforts Stoichkov was awarded the Golden Boot in 1990.
Also while at CSKA Sofia, he won numerous titles with his club. In 1984-85, the club was named Champion of Bulgaria, won the Bulgarian National Cup and the Soviet Army Cup. Two seasons later, he was suspended for the 1985-86 season, CSKA Sofia won all three titles again. During the 1987-88 campaign CSKA Sofia won the Bulgarian Cup. CSKA Sofia completed their domestic Treble in 1988-89, and in his last season in Bulgaria they won two titles, the league season and the Soviet Army Cup.
After the 1990 season, Barcelona of Spain bought him from Sofia for $4.5 million, at the time becoming the most expensive Bulgarian player in the world, and his tenure at Barcelona would be even greater. During the 1990-91 season, Stoichkov appeared in 24 games, scoring 14 goals. He would win four straight Spanish league titles with Barcelona, starting with the 1990-91 season. During the 1991-92 season Barcelona would win the most prestigious honor in club football in the world, the European Champions Cup (now UEFA Champions League). They would also take home the Spanish SuperCup, Spanish League Championship and European SuperCup, all while Stoichkov appeared in 32 matches, tallying 17 goals. In 1992-93, he appeared in 34 games, scoring 20 goals as Barcelona won the league again and the Spanish SuperCup. The 1993-94 season saw Stoichkov score 16 goals in 34 games. Barcelona would again win the league.
1994-95 would be Stoichkovs last season in the first go-round with Barcelona as he played in 27 games, scoring 9 goals, but was sold to Parma of Italys Serie A at the end of the season, despite Barcelona winning the league and the SuperCup again. Parma paid $15 million for Stoichkov, a hefty price tag considering he would only spend one season in Italy. Stoichkov scored five goals for the Italian club, while appearing in 23 games.
Barcelona then paid $3.3 million dollars back to Parma to get the fiery Bulgarian. In 1996-97, Stoichkov would appear in 22 matches for Barcelona, scoring 7 times and Barcelona won the Spanish Super Cup, the Spanish Kings Cup and the European Cup with Stoichkov back on their side. Things between Stoichkov and Barcelona soured the next season, 1997-98, and his contract was terminated on March 13, 1998. Stoichkov went back to Bulgaria to CSKA Sofia and played in four games, scoring two goals.
He was loaned to Al Nasr of Saudi Arabia and scored his and their only goal in the Asian Cup Winner Cup to lead them to the 1-0 victory. He finished his career in Chicago Fire and D.C. United in the USA.
Today, the football star Hristo Stoichkov lives and works in Chicago, USA.