The Most Famous

SOCCER PLAYERS from Bulgaria

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This page contains a list of the greatest Bulgarian Soccer Players. The pantheon dataset contains 21,273 Soccer Players, 77 of which were born in Bulgaria. This makes Bulgaria the birth place of the 43rd most number of Soccer Players behind Côte d'Ivoire, and Iran.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Bulgarian Soccer Players of all time. This list of famous Bulgarian Soccer Players is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Bulgarian Soccer Players.

Photo of Hristo Stoichkov

1. Hristo Stoichkov (b. 1966)

With an HPI of 65.56, Hristo Stoichkov is the most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 64 different languages on wikipedia.

Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgarian: Христо Стоичков Стоичков, pronounced [ˈxristo stoˈit͡ʃkof]; born 8 February 1966) is a Bulgarian former professional footballer who is a football commentator for TUDN. A prolific forward, he is regarded as one of the best forwards of all time, and as the greatest Bulgarian footballer of all time, along with Dimitar Berbatov. 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" (lit. 'The Gunslinger'), and was part of Johan Cruyff's "Dream Team" that won four consecutive La Liga titles and the 1992 European Cup. During his time at the club, he formed a prolific 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 Boot. 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).

Photo of Petar Zhekov

2. Petar Zhekov (1944 - 2023)

With an HPI of 58.59, Petar Zhekov is the 2nd most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 33 different languages.

Petar Petrov Zhekov (Bulgarian: Петър Петров Жеков, 10 October 1944 – 18 February 2023) was a Bulgarian footballer, widely regarded as one of the best forwards in the history of the Bulgarian football. He won the silver medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics. Zhekov was born in Knizhovnik, Haskovo Province, and began his career at F.C. Dimitrovgrad. He was initially deployed as a defender, but on the advice of manager Hristo Hadzhiev switched to the forward position. Later he moved to Beroe Stara Zagora, where he twice became Bulgaria's top goalscorer. Between 1968 and 1975 Zhekov played for CSKA Sofia and scored 144 goals for the team. This makes him the club's best goalscorer of all time. He also won the European Golden Boot in 1969 and two European Bronze Boots. He had 333 appearances and a record of 253 goals in the Bulgarian A Group.He is CSKA's all-time top scorer with 175 goals Zhekov later coached PFC Hebar Pazardzhik. He died on 18 February 2023, at the age of 78.

Photo of Dimitar Berbatov

3. Dimitar Berbatov (b. 1981)

With an HPI of 55.71, Dimitar Berbatov is the 3rd most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 60 different languages.

Dimitar Ivanov Berbatov (Bulgarian: Димитър Иванов Бербатов; born 30 January 1981) is a Bulgarian former professional footballer who played as a striker. Known for his technique and ball control, Berbatov is regarded as one of the greatest Bulgarian players of all time. He captained the Bulgaria national team from 2006 to 2010 and is the nation’s top goalscorer. Born in Blagoevgrad, Berbatov started out with his home-town club Pirin before joining CSKA Sofia as a 17-year-old in 1998. He was signed by Bayer Leverkusen of Germany in January 2001 and played in his first Champions League final 18 months later, coming on as a substitute in the 2002 UEFA Champions League Final, which Leverkusen lost 2–1 to Real Madrid. After five-and-a-half years with Leverkusen, he joined English club Tottenham Hotspur in July 2006, where he spent two years before moving to Manchester United. He played in his second Champions League final in 2009, during his side's 2–0 defeat against Barcelona. After four seasons with United, during which time he won two Premier League titles in 2008–09 and 2010–11, as well as the Premier League Golden Boot in 2010–11, he joined Fulham in August 2012. He had later spells in France with Monaco, Greece with PAOK, and India with Kerala Blasters, before retiring in 2019. Berbatov made his debut for Bulgaria on 17 November 1999, aged 18. He represented Bulgaria at Euro 2004 which was the only major tournament he played at for his country, owing to the team's failure to qualify for other tournaments. Berbatov captained the team from 2006 until May 2010, when he announced his retirement from international football, leaving his tally for Bulgaria standing at 48 goals from 78 matches. He won the Bulgarian Footballer of the Year a record seven times, surpassing the number of wins by Hristo Stoichkov.

Photo of Trifon Ivanov

4. Trifon Ivanov (1965 - 2016)

With an HPI of 55.00, Trifon Ivanov is the 4th most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 31 different languages.

Trifon Marinov Ivanov (Bulgarian: Трифон Маринов Иванов; 27 July 1965 – 13 February 2016) was a Bulgarian professional footballer who played as a defender. Ivanov made his debut for Bulgaria in 1988, earning 76 caps and scoring 6 goals over a ten-year international career. He appeared in the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cups, as well as the 1996 UEFA European Championship.

Photo of Dimitar Penev

5. Dimitar Penev (b. 1945)

With an HPI of 54.72, Dimitar Penev is the 5th most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Dimitar Dushkov Penev (Bulgarian: Димитър Душков Пенев, born 12 July 1945) is a Bulgarian football coach and former player and central defender of CSKA Sofia. He played 90 games for Bulgaria national team and scored two goals. He is regarded as one of his country's best ever defenders, winning Bulgarian footballer of the year in 1967 and 1971, he also participated in three world cups for his national team in 1966, 1970 and 1974. He is Honorary President of CSKA Sofia and semi-pro side Nottingham United FC.

Photo of Krasimir Balakov

6. Krasimir Balakov (b. 1966)

With an HPI of 54.61, Krasimir Balakov is the 6th most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 37 different languages.

Krasimir Genchev Balakov (Bulgarian: Красимир Генчев Балъков, pronounced [krɐsiˈmir bɐˈɫɤkof]; born 29 March 1966) is a Bulgarian football manager and former player who is the head coach of Bulgarian club Lokomotiv Sofia. A former attacking midfielder, he was a key member of the Bulgaria national team that finished fourth in the 1994 FIFA World Cup. He is considered as second only to Hristo Stoichkov among Bulgarian men's footballers of his generation.

Photo of Georgi Asparuhov

7. Georgi Asparuhov (1943 - 1971)

With an HPI of 54.58, Georgi Asparuhov is the 7th most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.

Georgi Asparuhov Rangelov (Bulgarian: Георги Аспарухов Рангелов; 4 May 1943 – 30 June 1971), nicknamed Gundi, was a Bulgarian footballer who played as a striker. A prolific forward of his generation, Asparuhov was renowned for his finishing, technique and heading ability. He was voted the best Bulgarian footballer of the 20th century and Europe's 40th best player of the century, a position shared with Paolo Rossi. Asparuhov was also nominated for the 1965 Ballon d'Or award, finishing eighth in the final standings. In international football, Asparuhov made his Bulgaria debut on 6 May 1962 at the age of 19. He made 49 appearances in total, appearing at three FIFA World Cup tournaments, in 1962, 1966 and 1970, and scoring 18 goals. Asparuhov's career was cut short in 1971 at the age of 28 when he died in a vehicle accident. Levski Sofia's stadium is named in his honour.

Photo of Hristo Bonev

8. Hristo Bonev (b. 1947)

With an HPI of 53.95, Hristo Bonev is the 8th most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Hristo Atanasov Bonev (Bulgarian: Христо Aтанасов Бонев; born 3 February 1947), also known as Zuma (Bulgarian: Зума), is a Bulgarian footballer manager and former player who last managed Lokomotiv Plovdiv in the Bulgarian A PFG. One of the greatest Bulgarian men's footballers, Bonev was renowned for his vision and technique.

Photo of Emil Kostadinov

9. Emil Kostadinov (b. 1967)

With an HPI of 53.18, Emil Kostadinov is the 9th most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 33 different languages.

Emil Lyubchov Kostadinov (Bulgarian: Емил Любчов Костадинов; born 12 August 1967) is a Bulgarian former professional footballer who played as a forward and represented the Bulgaria national team at two World Cups.

Photo of Yordan Letchkov

10. Yordan Letchkov (b. 1967)

With an HPI of 51.94, Yordan Letchkov is the 10th most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.

Yordan Letchkov Yankov (also transliterated Jordan, Iordan, Lechkov) (Bulgarian: Йордан Лечков Янков; born 9 July 1967) is a Bulgarian former professional footballer. He is generally regarded as one of the best players to come out of Bulgaria and was a key member of the squad which reached the semi-finals of the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Known to many as "The Magician", Letchkov was a gifted player who could play as a central midfielder or on the left side of midfield, and he was easily recognizable for his baldness. He was best known for his dribbling ability. However, his career was often adversely affected by his moody nature and the numerous arguments and fallings-out he had with fellow players and managers. He was the mayor of his home town for eight years, but was removed from duty due to corruption.

People

Pantheon has 92 people classified as Bulgarian soccer players born between 1923 and 1996. Of these 92, 65 (70.65%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living Bulgarian soccer players include Hristo Stoichkov, Dimitar Berbatov, and Dimitar Penev. The most famous deceased Bulgarian soccer players include Petar Zhekov, Trifon Ivanov, and Georgi Asparuhov. As of April 2024, 15 new Bulgarian soccer players have been added to Pantheon including Stefan Abadzhiev, Kiril Rakarov, and Zhivko Gospodinov.

Living Bulgarian Soccer Players

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Deceased Bulgarian Soccer Players

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Newly Added Bulgarian Soccer Players (2024)

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Overlapping Lives

Which Soccer Players were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 22 most globally memorable Soccer Players since 1700.