Hristo Stoichkov was born in Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria. His father played as a goalkeeper for the local club Spartak. In 1976, at the age of 10, Stoichkov joined the youth academy of Maritza in his hometown and remained there until 1984. He played for a year with a lower division club called Hebros Harmanli, until eventually signing with CSKA Sofia.
During the 1989 season, CSKA had a surprising run in the Cup Winners Cup. Stoichkov and his club reached the semifinals, but were defeated by Barcelona. Stoichkov scored two goals, stealing the attention of Barcelona’s coach, Johan Cruyff. Cruyff was eager to sign the Bulgarian, but CSKA refused to let him go until his contract was over. In the same year, Stoichkov was awarded the Golden Boot as the top goalscorer (38 goals) in Europe.
After his contract with CSKA expired, Stoichkov signed a five-year deal with Barcelona. In his first season in Spain, Stoichkov’s wild character asserted itself and he was banned for 6 months for attacking a referee who had given him a red card. Returning from his ban, Stoichkov led Barcelona to four consecutive La Liga titles (1991-1994). In 1992, he also helped Barcelona win the Champions League trophy after defeating Sampdoria (Italy) in the final.
With Stoichkov’s leading the way, Bulgaria reached the 1994 World Cup semifinals by defeating Greece, Argentina, Mexico and Germany. The country had never won a World Cup game until then. With a total of 6 goals, Stoichkov became the top goalscorer of the tournament along with Russia’s Oleg Salenko. Stoichkov’s spectacular performance earned him the European Player of the Year award in 1994.
After an unsuccessful appearance in Euro 1996, Bulgaria managed to qualify for World Cup 1998 with an aging squad that hadn’t changed much since 1994. Stoichkov’s team was eliminated after drawing with Paraguay and losing to Nigeria and Spain.
After a short stint with Parma (Italy) Stoichkov returned to Barcelona for another two seasons. He later signed with the Saudi Arabian club Al Knassar and briefly played in Japan with Kashiwa Reysol. In 1999, Stoichkov signed with Chicago Fire from the MLS. He played with Chicago for two seasons and then moved to DC United where he signed as an assistant coach. Stoichkov officially retired from football in December of 2003.
|Name||Hristo Stoichkov (or Stoitchkov)|
|Born||8 February 1966 in Plovdiv|
|Height||176 cm / 5 feet 9 inches|
|Weight||82 kg / 181 pounds|
Al Nasar (S.Arabia)
Kashiwa Reysol (Japan)
Chicago Fire (USA)
DC United (USA)
|Nicknames||Kamata (the dagger)
|Skills||Free kicks, shooting, speed|