I'm a Ballon d'Or winner nicknamed The Dagger – I got £200k to play twice for Al-Nassr decades before Cristiano Ronaldo | The Sun

I'm a Ballon d'Or winner nicknamed The Dagger – I got £200k to play twice for Al-Nassr decades before Cristiano Ronaldo | The Sun

October 29, 2023

HRISTO STOICHKOV was nicknamed The Dagger and was paid hundreds of thousands by Al-Nassr to play just TWO matches.

The Bulgarian was named his country's footballer of the year five times during his career.

However, it was his Ballon d'Or win in 1994 which stands out after the winger beat Italian duo Roberto Baggio and Paolo Maldini to the award.

Stoichkov had won the Golden Boot at that year's World Cup having lifted the LaLiga trophy with Barcelona weeks earlier.

He even compared himself to God during his acceptance speech, claiming: "There are only two Christs; one plays for Barcelona, the other is in heaven."

Across two spells with Barca, Stoichkov won 18 trophies, including the European Cup and five league titles.



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During his time in Spain, he was affectionately labelled "El Pistolero" by supporters, meaning "The Gunslinger".

However, he was more commonly nicknamed "The Dagger" as a player due to his presence and fiery temperament on the pitch.

After his second stint at the Nou Camp, Stoichkov returned to Bulgaria with CSKA Sofia before spells in Saudi Arabia, Japan and the USA.

His 10 months in the Middle East saw him play just twice, though, as part of a two-match deal with Al-Nassr.

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Stoichkov joined the club in 1998 as they aimed to win the Asian Cup Winners' Cup.

He was reportedly paid £165,000 to play in the semi-final and final, during which he scored the only goal to beat Suwon Bluewings.

By the time he retired in 2003 at the age of 37, Stoichkov had scored 37 goals in 83 caps for Bulgaria.

Those strikes included four at the 1994 World Cup to help his nation finish fourth, their best ever performance at the tournament.

Since retiring, Stoichkov has embarked on a nomadic coaching career with managerial roles in Spain, South Africa and his native Bulgaria.

He also spent three years as the national team's boss after taking over following their last major tournament in 2004.

Stoichkov has been a co-owner of CSKA Sofia since 2016 after previously being both president and manager of his old club.

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