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 16,923 Soccer Players, 57 of which were born in Bulgaria. This makes Bulgaria the birth place of the 49th most number of Soccer Players behind Ireland and Saudi Arabia.

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 (1966 - )

With an HPI of 71.79, Hristo Stoichkov is the most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 65 different languages on wikipedia.

Hristo Stoichkov Stoichkov (Bulgarian: Христо Стоичков Стоичков, pronounced [ˈxristo stoˈit͡ʃkof]; born 8 February 1966) is a Bulgarian former professional footballer who is currently a football commentator for TUDN. A prolific forward, he is regarded as one of the best players of his generation and is widely considered the greatest Bulgarian footballer of all time. 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 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 Boris Gaganelov

2. Boris Gaganelov (1941 - 2020)

With an HPI of 63.94, Boris Gaganelov is the 2nd most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 18 different languages.

Boris Atanasov Gaganelov (Bulgarian: Борис Aтанасов Гаганелов; 7 October 1941 – 5 June 2020) was a Bulgarian football player and later coach. Gaganelov was born in Petrich. He made 51 appearances for the Bulgaria national football team. He represented Bulgaria at the FIFA World Cups in 1966 and 1970.He died on 5 June 2020 at the age of 78 in Sofia.

Photo of Georgi Asparuhov

3. Georgi Asparuhov (1943 - 1971)

With an HPI of 63.79, Georgi Asparuhov is the 3rd most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 24 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 Dimitar Penev

4. Dimitar Penev (1945 - )

With an HPI of 63.66, Dimitar Penev is the 4th most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 21 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 football team and scored 2 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 3 world cups for his country in 1966, 1970 and 1974. He is currently the Honorary President of CSKA Sofia and semi-pro side Nottingham United FC.

Photo of Petar Zhekov

5. Petar Zhekov (1944 - )

With an HPI of 63.09, Petar Zhekov is the 5th most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 31 different languages.

Petar Petrov Zhekov (Bulgarian: Петър Петров Жеков, born 10 October 1944) is a former Bulgarian football player, who 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 has 333 appearances and a record of 253 goals in the Bulgarian A Group. He later coached PFC Hebar Pazardzhik.

Photo of Krasimir Balakov

6. Krasimir Balakov (1966 - )

With an HPI of 62.78, Krasimir Balakov is the 6th most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 35 different languages.

Krasimir Genchev Balakov (Bulgarian: Красимир Генчев Балъков, pronounced [krɐsiˈmir ˈbaɫɐkof]; born 29 March 1966) is a Bulgarian professional football manager and former player who is the head coach of Bulgarian club CSKA 1948. A former attacking midfielder, he was a key member of the Bulgarian national team that finished fourth in the 1994 FIFA World Cup. He is considered as second only to Hristo Stoichkov among Bulgarian footballers of his generation.

Photo of Dimitar Berbatov

7. Dimitar Berbatov (1981 - )

With an HPI of 62.69, Dimitar Berbatov is the 7th most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 58 different languages.

Dimitar Ivanov Berbatov (Bulgarian: Димитър Иванов Бербатов; born 30 January 1981) is a Bulgarian former professional footballer. A striker, he captained the Bulgaria national team from 2006 to 2010, and is the country's all-time leading goalscorer. He is regarded as one of the greatest Bulgarian players of all time.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 Emil Kostadinov

8. Emil Kostadinov (1967 - )

With an HPI of 62.55, Emil Kostadinov is the 8th most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 31 different languages.

Emil Lubtchov Kostadinov (Bulgarian: Емил Любчов Костадинов; born 12 August 1967) is a retired Bulgarian football forward, playing for Bulgaria in two World Cups. He shares his birthday with similarly highly acclaimed Dimitar Yakimov: 12 August 1941.

Photo of Trifon Ivanov

9. Trifon Ivanov (1965 - 2016)

With an HPI of 62.54, Trifon Ivanov is the 9th most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 29 different languages.

Trifon Marinov Ivanov (Bulgarian: Трифон Маринов Иванов; 27 July 1965 – 13 February 2016) was a Bulgarian international 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. Ivanov died of a heart attack on 13 February 2016.

Photo of Ivan Dimitrov

10. Ivan Dimitrov (1935 - 2019)

With an HPI of 61.65, Ivan Dimitrov is the 10th most famous Bulgarian Soccer Player.  Her biography has been translated into 20 different languages.

Ivan Milanov Dimitrov (Bulgarian: Иван Миланов Димитров; 14 May 1935 – 1 January 2019) was a Bulgarian footballer who played as a defender for the Bulgarian national team. At club level, he made 340 appearances in the Bulgarian League, playing for Stroitel Sofia, Torpedo Sofia, Zavod 12 Sofia, Lokomotiv Sofia, Spartak Sofia and Akademik Sofia.Dimitrov was capped 70 times for the Bulgaria national football team. He appeared in the 1962 and 1970 FIFA World Cups. He also competed in the men's tournament at the 1960 Summer Olympics. He died on 1 January 2019 at the age of 83.

Pantheon has 57 people classified as soccer players born between 1923 and 1993. Of these 57, 46 (80.70%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living soccer players include Hristo Stoichkov, Dimitar Penev, and Petar Zhekov. The most famous deceased soccer players include Boris Gaganelov, Georgi Asparuhov, and Trifon Ivanov. As of October 2020, 12 new soccer players have been added to Pantheon including Boris Gaganelov, Simeon Simeonov, and Ayan Sadakov.

Living Soccer Players

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Deceased Soccer Players

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Newly Added Soccer Players (2020)

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Which Soccer Players were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 11 most globally memorable Soccer Players since 1700.