September 28, 2021

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“The game needs iconic characters”

9:00 PM, June 5, 2021

His left foot spat out fire, his big mouth keeps burning everyone who doesn’t like him. From Miami, where he resides, Hristo Stoichkov, 55, remains a keen observer of European football. He rose to fame with FC Barcelona under Johan Cruyff (1990-1995) and won the Golden Ball a few months after the Bulgarian epic at the 1994 World Cup in the USA. Three days before the France-Bulgaria match (Tuesday, 9:10pm, Round 6), the last Euro preparatory match, this unexpected character responded in writing to JDD, alternating with crushes and scrapes. The author of a biography released last year in his country, the former striker still has something to say.

France is the world champion, but are they the best team in the world?
One of the best, yes, and therefore one of the biggest candidates in the Eurozone. The French are waiting for the European title. This is even more true with the return of Karim Benzema, one of the most successful strikers in the world for several seasons. I knew he wasn’t called up for disciplinary reasons unrelated to the sport. Good for you if the issue is finally resolved.

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It is said that the blues style does not amount to many talents. What do you think?
I do not agree. Especially at the end of such a crazy season for athletes. After the first months of the pandemic, tournaments started again late. Specialists such as Pep Guardiola have complained that calendars are designed by people who have never touched the ball. Football players have been playing in harsh conditions for months. How can national teams escape from this reality? Breeders are forced to do a giant job in a very short period of time. Production cannot be optimal. But once the tournament begins, the situation will improve.

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For you, “Every time Griezmann is on the pitch, Barcelona plays ten.” Do you hate him that much?
This comment was not personal. I’ve only analyzed what I’ve seen most of the season. Griezmann is expected to dance in the big matches, not just against regular La Liga teams. He’s a player I’ve always loved. But when it costs 100 million [Barcelone a payé sa clause libératoire de 120 millions d’euros à l’Atlético de Madrid en 2019]You have no right to complain about your accommodation. However, Real Sociedad supporters have owned [2009-2014] Then from Atlético [2014-2019]. In Spain, everyone respects him.

Real Madrid would like to buy Mbappe or Halland. Which one do you prefer?
Haaland has definitely been the best of the year. He got the right to the golden boy [attribué au meilleur joueur de moins de 21 ans]. Points with both feet, head. Minimized for its size, I like its speed. It is a real machine. It is different from Mbappe, and therefore perhaps complementary. Rarely have we seen two young men with these qualities at the same time. But Real Madrid transfers never mattered to me.

Messi and Ronaldo got to the top too early and haven’t gone down in fifteen years

Who is your ideal team for this season?
Neuer – Pavard, Sergio Ramos, Pique, Jordi Alba – De Jong, Busquets, Neymar – Messi, Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo. The game needs striking characters. Messi and Ronaldo got to the top very early and haven’t gone down in fifteen years. It is not only talent, it is also the strength of their personality. But I’m sorry that a huge striker like Lewandowski has been in their shadow for so long.

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Luis Enrique greatly renewed Spain. Too much to go away?
No, I don’t think so. Admittedly, La Roja hasn’t been up to the task in its last matches [défaite en Ukraine, nuls contre la Suisse et la Grèce], but I’m sure she will be ready against Sweden on June 14th. Excluding him from the favorites would be a big mistake.

This Euro is the second to 24 teams. Intermediate countries benefited but not Bulgaria. Hopeless?
With us, a lot of mistakes were made. Bulgaria missed the opportunity to build on our successes in 1994 [demi-finaliste de la Coupe du monde]. The state believed that everything would be taken for granted, and the leaders no longer thought about development. It has been ten years since I was eliminated from Bulgarian football. We are too late, the high level is hard to catch up.

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Henry, Pirlo, Vieira, Arteta… This season, the great players who became coaches faced difficulties. why?
Like them I was a junior techie and remembered one thing: in this position your name is of no use to you no matter how glorious it may be. With Pirlo on the pitch, Juventus were invincible. But on the bench, she has nothing to do. Is he responsible for his team’s average results? not nessacary. Its year coincided with the end of the membership cycle. Even geniuses have limited credibility. But there are opposite examples, like this young coach who won the Champions League three times in a row [Zinédine Zidane]. Or Shevchenko, another golden ball: no one expects miracles from Ukraine, so it is easier. He has time to develop his ideas.

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Barcelona is one of the last three clubs to support the breakaway European League project. do you understand?
No, I’m totally against it. Twelve clubs wanted to dictate their own rules and decide who had the right to play high-level matches. I appreciate that supporters have expressed their opposition everywhere. The football world fought for its identity. In 1989, the young Stoichkov from CSKA Sofia scored two goals against FC Barcelona Cruyff, who decided to take me. With the Premier League, neither CSKA nor the mediocre teams will have a chance to play against Barcelona. It would be very unfair. Fans united to shout “No Basaran!”. I thank them for that.