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 play for a year with a lower division club called Hebros Harmanli, until eventually signing with CSKA Sofia.
In the 1988/1989 season, CSKA had a surprising run in the Cup Winners Cup. Stoichkov’s club reached the semifinals where they were defeated by Barcelona. Stoichkov scored two goals, stealing the attention of Barcelona coach, Johan Cruyff. Cruyff was eager to sign the Bulgarian, but CSKA refused to let him go until his contract ran out. 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 La Liga titles in a row (1991-1994). In 1992, he also helped Barcelona win the Champions League trophy after defeating Sampdoria (Italy) in the final.
In World Cup 1994, Bulgaria’s national team was managed by Dimitar Penev, Stoichkov’s former coach from CSKA. Thanks to Stoichkov’s sensational scoring, Bulgaria reached the semifinals by defeating Greece, Argentina, Mexico and Germany. The country had never won a World Cup game until then. In the semifinals, Bulgaria was eliminated by Italy. With a total of 6 goals, Stoichkov became the top goalscorer of World Cup 1994 along with Russia’s Oleg Salenko. In 1994, Stoichkov was given the European Player of the Year award.
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|