One of the most renowned left-footed
soccer players in activity, Hristo Stoitchkov has already
cemented his status as a sports legend. He is considered among
soccer's elite, arguably one of the top soccer players of
the 20th Century. His passion and competitive drive are contagious.
Stoitchkov's extraordinary talent, fiery temper and determination
to succeed have led him to the heights of personal and professional
Stoitchkov, also called "Itso" by his friends, was born in Plovdiv, Bulgaria in 1966. According to his mother, Penka, Hristo was born "with a ball between his feet." His father participated on the hometown local team of Maritsa, Plovdiv, as a goalkeeper. Stoitchkov began as a ball boy for the team, but by 1977 the 10 year olds talent had developed so well that he began playing for the team. In 1984, Stoitchkov left Maritsa to begin playing for team of Hebar, Harmali.
Once there, Stoitchkov's genius did not go unnoticed for long. In 1985 Manol Manalov, the Manager of CSKA, Sofia, observed his extraordinary ability, and selected him to play for CSKA under the guidance and direction of coach Dimitar Penev. Penev, known for finding and developing new talents, helped bring Stoitchkov up to the next level, where his natural ability and mastery of the game would soon distinguish him from the other players.
Stoitchkov played for CSKA from 1986-1989, quickly becoming a National Hero. In his first full season with the team he helped CSKA win the Championship and Cup of Bulgaria. With mounting experience and achievements on the field, Stoitchkov was shaping up as a center figure in Bulgarian football. In 1989 he was named Top Goal Scorer of the league with a record of 23 goals. That same season, Stoitchkov also won the Golden Boot for Top Goal Scorer in Bulgaria and in Europe after CSKA reached the semifinals for the Cup Winners Cup.
Even though CSKA was defeated in the semifinals by Barcelona, Spain, Stoitchkov's performance dominated the field and attracted the attention of Barcelona coach Johan Cruyff. Cruyff signed Stoitchkov to a five-year contract with Barcelona for a record sum of $4.5 million.