Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgarian: Христо Стоичков, [ˈxristo stoˈit͡ʃkof]; born 8 February 1966) is a Bulgarian former footballer who is currently a football commentator for Univision Deportes. A prolific forward, he is regarded as one of the best players of his generation and is widely considered one of the greatest Bulgarian footballers of all time second only to Georgi Asparuhov. He was runner-up for the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1992 and 1994, and received the Ballon d'Or in 1994. In 2004, Stoichkov was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players.
At club level, Stoichkov spent six years at CSKA Sofia and became the top goalscorer in Europe in 1990, receiving the European Golden Shoe. In 1990, he joined Barcelona where he earned the Spanish nickname "El Pistolero" ("The Gunslinger"), and was part of Johan Cruyff's "Dream Team" that won four consecutive La Liga titles and one UEFA Champions League. During his time at the club, he formed a lethal strike partnership with Romário. Cruyff was largely instrumental in bringing him to Barcelona where he quickly developed into one of the most prolific forwards in the world.
Stoichkov was a member of the Bulgaria national team that finished fourth at the 1994 FIFA World Cup, of which he was the top scorer with six goals and received the World Cup Golden Shoe. He was ranked the third best player at the World Cup, after Romário and Roberto Baggio, and received the World Cup Bronze Ball. Apart from his footballing talent, he was notable for his on-pitch temper. In his playing career he was also nicknamed The Dagger (Камата).
Stoichkov was born in the city of Plovdiv.
Stoichkov began his football career playing for hometown club Maritsa Plovdiv at age 11. In 1982, he moved to Hebros Harmanli, scoring 14 goals in the third level of Bulgarian football.
In early 1985, Stoichkov joined CSKA Sofia. At the beginning of his five-year stay at CSKA, Stoichkov (who later became famous for his short temper) became involved in a fight during the 1985 Bulgarian Cup Final, which resulted in an original lifelong ban, later reduced to a year suspension. He made his comeback for CSKA on 30 April 1986, in a 3–1 away win over Sliven in a game of the Cup of the Soviet Army. On 21 May, Stoichkov opened the scoring in the final of tournament against Lokomotiv Sofia, which CSKA won 2–0.
He continued his progress during 1986–87, becoming a regular in the left side of CSKA's attack. Stoichkov collected his first A Group title winner's medal at the end of the season. He scored 6 league goals that season.
Stoichkov managed to win the European Golden Boot with CSKA by scoring 38 goals in 30 matches during the 1989–90 A Group season.
After five years with CSKA, Stoichkov transferred to Barcelona. In his first season with the club, Stoichkov was suspended for two months for stomping on a referee's foot, but he still scored 14 league goals and 6 more in the European Cup Winners' Cup. He became part of manager Johan Cruyff's "Dream Team" and helped Barcelona to one of the most successful eras of the club, winning La Liga four years in a row between 1991 and 1994 and the European Cup after defeating Sampdoria in 1992. During his stay in Barcelona, he became an idol for the club's fans, and played in tandem with Romário in attack. Stoichkov was also known for making sure Romario attended training sessions on time, as the latter often indulged in late-night fiestas. Stoichkov was twice named runner up for the FIFA World Player of the Year, in 1992 and 1994, and he won the 1994 Ballon d'Or after leading his national team to the 1994 World Cup semi-finals.
Stoichkov then had a short spell in Italy with Parma scoring a total of seven goals and soon returned to FC Barcelona where he played until early '98. In April 1998 he signed a two-match contract for Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr helping them win the Asian Cup Winners' Cup. In the semi-final against Kopetdag, he earned a penalty and assisted the winning goal and in the final against Suwon Bluewings, he scored the only goal in the 12th minute. For those two games Hristo received $200.000. He subsequently went in Japan to play with Kashiwa Reysol, before finishing his career in the United States with the Chicago Fire and D.C. United, winning the U.S. Open Cup (and scoring the first goal in the final) with the former.
Stoichkov debuted for the Bulgaria national team in a UEFA Euro 1988 qualifying match against Belgium on 23 September 1987. He scored his first international goal in his fourth appearance, a 3–2 friendly defeat of Qatar in Doha.
During qualification for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, Stoichkov scored five goals to help Bulgaria qualify for its first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup. At the tournament finals, Stoichkov was awarded the World Cup Golden Boot as the joint top goal scorer of the tournament (with Oleg Salenko), with six goals, as well as earning the Bronze Ball award. He led Bulgaria past Germany in the quarter-finals 2–1, a shock result as Germany were the then-defending champions. In the semi-finals, Bulgaria lost 2–1 to Italy. They subsequently lost the third place play-off to Sweden, 4–0.
Bulgaria finished second in the qualifying group for Euro 1996 behind Germany. Stoichkov scored ten goals for his team during the qualifiers, as Bulgaria qualified as one of the best six runners-up. In the first match against Germany in Sofia, Bulgaria were 2–0 down at half-time. Stoichkov equalized with two goals from penalties and Emil Kostadinov also scored for a 3–2 win. Bulgaria lost the second match in Germany 3–1. During the finals, Bulgaria lost 3–1 in the decisive group match against a strong France side; in the other match, Spain won 2–1 against Romania and so the Bulgarians went out. In that tournament, Stoichkov scored three goals in three matches.
He was also part of the squad that was eliminated in the first round of the 1998 World Cup. Bulgaria was not nearly as strong as in previous years, earning only one point in a 0–0 draw against Paraguay and scoring only one goal through Kostadinov in a 6–1 defeat by Spain. Stoichkov retired from internationals in 1999 with 37 goals in 83 appearances. His last game was during the EURO 2000 Qualification against England which ended 1-1 and Stoichkov assisted Georgi Markov for the equalizer goal from freekick goal. In the same game he was substituted with Martin Petrov for whom it was debut with Bulgarian shirt. Ironically both are Bulgaria's only Goalscorers in UEFA EURO Tournament, Stoichkov was the only Goalscorer in 1996 with 3 Goals while Petrov in 2004 in the 2-1 lose against Italy. Bulgaria failed to Qualify for the EURO 2000 in Belgium and the Netherlands after the game, as they needed a win to have chanches to Qualify.
He later served as coach of the Bulgaria national team from 2004 to April 2007.
Style of play
— Football writer Sid Lowe on the strike partnership at Barcelona.
Stoichkov was a quick, creative, tenacious and prolific left-footed forward who was primarily deployed as a striker, but was also capable of playing in a creative role, as an attacking midfielder, due to his ability to provide assists for teammates. He was also deployed as a supporting striker throughout his career, forming a lethal strike partnership with Romário at Barcelona, and occasionally he played as a right winger during his time at the club, although he was also capable of playing on the left or through the middle. In his early years he also used to play as a left full-back. A powerful, physically strong and technically gifted player, Stoichkov was known for his explosive acceleration, and his dribbling ability at speed, as well as for his tendency to take unpredictable, powerful shots on goal. The top goalscorer at the 1994 World Cup, he was also notable at taking free-kicks and penalties, as well as being a very good crosser and passer of the ball. Manager Dimitar Dimitrov described Stoichkov as "one of the greatest players of all time" in 2006, and as a player who had "a winning mentality."
Despite his talent, Stoichkov was criticised for his work-rate at times, and he also gained infamy because of his aggressive temper on the pitch; he could often be seen arguing with the referee, or with his opponents. At Euro 1996, after Bulgaria's final group stage match against France he was accused by French defender Marcel Desailly of making insulting remarks referring to his race.
In 2006, he was sued by a former American University college student whose leg he broke with a violent tackle while playing in a friendly match for D.C. United in 2003. The case was settled out of court in 2007 for undisclosed financial terms. The student's coach called Stoichkov's challenge "criminal". Ray Hudson, who coached D.C. United for whom Stoichkov played at the time, called it a "rash tackle". Following an investigation by Major League Soccer (MLS), Stoichkov was suspended two games and fined US$2,000.
Stoichkov features in EA Sports' FIFA video game series; he was included in the FIFA 15 Ultimate Team Legends.
In 2018 he published his authorized biography "Hristo Stoichkov. The Story". The official unveiling of the autobiography in November was attended by many footballers, other sportspeople, former Bulgarian presidents Petar Stoyanov, Georgi Parvanov and Rosen Plevneliev as well as former Spanish referee ldefonso Urízar Azpitarte, who had sent off Stoichkov during the first match of the 1990 Spanish Super Cup final and was given the opportunity to symbolically stomp on Stoichkov's foot.
In the 2003–04 season, Stoichkov started a managing career, serving as a forwards coach at Barcelona. After Bulgarian national team manager Plamen Markov resigned in the wake of the team's first-round exit from Euro 2004, the Bulgarian Football Union named him as the new national team manager on 15 July.
Stoichkov's managing career got off to a poor start with him failing to lead Bulgaria to qualification for the 2006 World Cup. He brought his bad temper from his career as a player to the bench. A couple of proven players quit the team due to personal differences with Stoichkov. The most notable scandal was on 5 September 2005, in a game against Sweden, where he was sent-off for insulting the referee.
The biggest blow to Stoichkov as a manager of the national team of Bulgaria came on 12 October 2006, when Stiliyan Petrov, the captain of the team, announced he would not play for Bulgaria so long as Stoichkov was manager. Petrov was the third player and the second captain in two years to leave the team because of differences with Stoichkov. On 17 March 2007, however, Petrov announced that he had had a private conversation with Stoichkov, in which they were able to work their differences out. As a result, Petrov would return to the team.
On 10 April 2007, the Bulgarian Football Union announced they had accepted the resignation of Stoichkov from his post with the national team. That was as a result of the poor performance of the team at the ongoing Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, followed by widely spread criticism and debate over the qualities of the manager. The specific game, which led to increased pressure on Stoichkov, was the 0–0 home draw with Albania (despite the fact that the Bulgarians generally controlled the game and hit the post twice). He had a short disappointing stint as manager at Celta Vigo, for which he was sacked following the team's slump that took them to the lower reaches of the Spanish Second Division. On 8 October 2007, he was replaced by ex-Real Madrid manager Juan Ramón López Caro. On 12 March 2009, Stoichkov visited the Manchester City training ground after requesting a visit.
On 29 June 2009, Stoichkov moved to Mamelodi Sundowns, where he replaced Henri Michel. On 16 March 2010, he quit Mamelodi Sundowns, with the former South Africa national team manager Trott Moloto named caretaker until a full-time replacement is found.
In 2011, the Vietnam Football Federation invited Stoichkov to become the head manager of Vietnam national team. In the 2011–12 season, he worked as an advisor at Russian club Rostov.
In January 2012, Stoichkov was appointed manager of Bulgarian side Litex Lovech, replacing Lyuboslav Penev, who left to become manager of the Bulgaria national team. In May 2013, Stoichkov was recognized as the A PFG manager of the season following a vote by the professional footballers in the Bulgarian league. In June 2013, he was named the manager of Bulgarian powerhouse – and former club – CSKA Sofia, but quit one month later after he lost faith in the troubled club.
|Club performance||League||Cup||League Cup||Continental||Total|
|Bulgaria||League||Bulgarian Cup||League Cup||Europe||Total|
|1984–85||CSKA Sofia||A Group||11||0||11||0|
|Spain||League||Copa del Rey||Copa de la Liga||Europe||Total|
|1990–91||FC Barcelona||La Liga||24||14||6||2||–||8||6||38||22|
|Italy||League||Coppa Italia||League Cup||Europe||Total|
|Spain||League||Copa del Rey||Copa de la Liga||Europe||Total|
|1996–97||FC Barcelona||La Liga||22||7||6||1||–||7||0||35||8|
|Bulgaria||League||Bulgarian Cup||League Cup||Europe||Total|
|1997–98||CSKA Sofia||A Group||4||1||4||1|
|Saudi Arabia||League||Crown Prince Cup||League Cup||Asia||Total|
|1997–98||Al-Nassr||Saudi Premier League||2||1||2||1|
|Japan||League||Emperor's Cup||J.League Cup||Asia||Total|
|1998||Kashiwa Reysol||J1 League||16||8||1||0||0||0||–||17||8|
|United States||League||Open Cup||League Cup||North America||Total|
|2000||Chicago Fire||Major League Soccer||18||9||3||1||21||10|
- Scores and goals list Bulgaria's goal tally first.
|1.||21 January 1988||Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, Doha, Qatar||Qatar||3–2||Friendly|
|2.||9 August 1988||Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo, Norway||Norway||1–1||1–1|
|3.||24 August 1988||Stadion Hetman, Białystok, Poland||Poland||1–3||2–3|
|4.||21 September 1988||Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria||Soviet Union||2–2||2–2|
|5.||11 October 1989||Yuri Gagarin Stadium, Varna, Bulgaria||Greece||4–0||4–0||1990 FIFA World Cup qualification|
|6.||25 September 1991||Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria||Italy||2–0||2–1||Friendly|
|7.||16 October 1991||San Marino||2–0||4–0||UEFA Euro 1992 qualifying|
|8.||19 August 1992||Mexico||1–1||1–1||Friendly|
|9.||9 September 1992||France||1–0||2–0||1994 FIFA World Cup qualification|
|10.||28 April 1993||Finland||1–0||2–0|
|11.||12 May 1993||Israel||1–0||2–2|
|12.||8 September 1993||Sweden||1–0||1–1|
|13.||13 October 1993||Austria||2–0||4–1|
|14.||26 June 1994||Soldier Field, Chicago, United States||Greece||1–0||4–0||1994 FIFA World Cup|
|16.||30 June 1994||Cotton Bowl, Dallas, United States||Argentina||1–0||2–0|
|17.||5 July 1994||Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, United States||Mexico||1–0||1–1|
|18.||10 July 1994||Germany||1–1||2–1|
|19.||13 July 1994||Italy||1–2||1–2|
|20.||16 November 1994||Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria||Moldova||1–0||4–1||UEFA Euro 1996 qualifying|
|22.||14 December 1994||Arms Park, Cardiff, Wales||Wales||3–0||3–0|
|23.||26 April 1995||Stadionul Republican, Chișinău, Moldova||Moldova||2–0||3–0|
|25.||7 June 1995||Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria||Germany||1–2||3–2|
|27.||6 September 1995||Qemal Stafa Stadium, Tirana, Albania||Albania||1–0||1–1|
|28.||11 October 1995||Boris Paichadze National Stadium, Tbilisi, Georgia||Georgia||1–2||1–2|
|29.||15 November 1995||Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany||Germany||1–0||1–3|
|30.||28 May 1996||Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria||Macedonia||2–0||3–0||Friendly|
|31.||2 June 1996||United Arab Emirates||2–0||4–1|
|32.||9 June 1996||Elland Road, Leeds, England||Spain||1–0||1–1||UEFA Euro 1996|
|33.||13 June 1996||St James' Park, Newcastle, England||Romania||1–0||1–0|
|34.||18 June 1996||France||1–2||1–3|
|35.||8 June 1997||Neftochimik Stadium, Burgas, Bulgaria||Luxembourg||1–0||4–0||1998 FIFA World Cup qualification|
|36.||5 June 1998||Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria||Algeria||1–0||2–0||Friendly|
|37.||31 March 1999||Stade Josy Barthel, Luxembourg, Luxembourg||Luxembourg||1–0||2–0||UEFA Euro 2000 qualifying|
- As of 8 July 2013.
|Bulgaria||15 July 2004||10 April 2007||Competitive||15||6||6||3||040.00||24||20||+4|
|Celta Vigo||April 2007||8 October 2007||League||16||7||1||8||043.75||18||22||–4|
|Copa del Rey||1||0||0||1||000.00||1||2||–1|
|Mamelodi Sundowns||29 June 2009||16 March 2010||Premier Soccer League||30||16||8||6||053.33||43||24||+19|
|Litex Lovech||5 January 2012||31 May 2013||Bulgarian A Professional Football Group||46||25||9||12||054.35||89||38||+51|
|CSKA Sofia||5 June 2013||8 July 2013||Bulgarian A Professional Football Group||0||0||0||0||!—||0||0||0|
- A Group: 1986–87, 1988–89, 1989–90
- Bulgarian Cup: 1984–85, 1986–87, 1987–88, 1988–89
- Bulgarian Supercup: 1989
- La Liga: 1990–91, 1991–92, 1992–93, 1993–94, 1997–98
- Copa del Rey: 1996–97
- Supercopa de España: 1992, 1994, 1996
- European Cup/UEFA Champions League: 1991–92
- UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: 1996–97
- European Super Cup: 1992, 1997
- Asian Cup Winners' Cup: 1997–98
- U.S. Open Cup: 2000
- FIFA World Cup Semi-Finals(bronze): 1994
- Ballon d'Or: 1994
- Bulgarian Footballer of the Year: 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994
- Bulgarian League Top Scorer: 1989, 1990
- European Cup Winners' Cup Top Scorer: 1989
- European Golden Shoe: 1990
- Onze d'Or: 1992
- UNICEF European Footballer of the Season: 1991–92
- FIFA World Player of the Year Silver Ball: 1992, 1994
- FIFA World Cup Golden Shoe: 1994
- FIFA World Cup Bronze Ball: 1994
- FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 1994
- Don Balón Award Best tip in La Liga: 1994
- Onze d'Argent: 1994
- IFFHS World's Top Goal Scorer of the Year: 1994
- Bulgarian Sportsperson of the Year: 1994
- UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament: 1996
- "Excellence Guirlande D'Honneur" and he entered in the FICTS "Hall of Fame".
- UEFA Jubilee Awards – Greatest Bulgarian Footballer of the last 50 Years: 2004
- FIFA 100: 2004
- World Soccer's 100 Greatest Players of the 20th Century: 2007
- Golden Foot: 2007, as football legend
- The only Player to win the European and Asian Edition of the Cup Winners Cup.
- Mamelodi Sundowns
- Premier Soccer League Runner-up: 2009–10
- Premier Soccer League: Coach of the Month: December 2009
- In November 2003, to celebrate UEFA's Jubilee, he was selected as the Golden Player of Bulgaria by the Bulgarian Football Union as their most outstanding player of the past 50 years.
- He was named by Pelé as one of the 125 Greatest Living Footballers at a FIFA Awards ceremony in 2004.
- Eurosport made a voting in 2005 there Fans could decide who was the best Player in the 90s and Stoichkov won the Award.
- In 2011 he was named honorary consul of Bulgaria in Barcelona. In October 2017 he was removed from the position on the request of the Spanish government over his criticisms of this government (especially the deputy prime minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría) in relation with the Catalan independence referendum, as well as the fact that he lives mainly in the United States.