The 39th Ballon d'Or winner

Thirtiest and ninethose Ballon d'Or winner - Hristo Stoichkov    

The first and last Bulgarian to win the prize for the best player in Europe

Hristo Stoichkov has brought a lot of joy to all football supporters in Bulgaria, and even to Barcelona and the other club teams he played for. The best Bulgarian player of all time also received his international recognition in 1994, when he won the Ballon d'Or voting. The award was won by him in an undisputed way. Stoichkov received his prize on December 20 at a special ceremony, where it became clear that he had received 210 points from the journalists who voted for him.

The big change in the rankings is that now 49 journalists, representatives of each UEFA member country, have the right to vote, which is significantly more than in previous years. 48 of them voted for Stoichkov, with 28 placing him in first place, 13 in second, five in third and one each in fourth and fifth position. The Bulgarian footballer of Barcelona easily overtakes the second Roberto Baggio, who collects 136 points. Last year's winner and runner-up of the world championship in the USA with the Italian national team has only six first positions, which makes the big difference with Izzo. The top three is completed by another of the Squadra Azzura players - Milan defender Paolo Maldini. The fourth place is shared by the Romanian Gheorghe Hadji and Thomas Brolin from Sweden.

The curious thing is that there are two more Bulgarians in the ranking. These are Yordan Lechkov and Krasimir Balakov. Lechkov collects four points with two fourth-place finishes and the Sporting Lisbon midfielder just three, although France Football claim that Balakov has also earned four points and should be in thirteenth position alongside compatriot Eric Cantona and Michael Laudrup .

In a year with a world finals, it makes sense that the winner of the Ballon d'Or ranking would be the player who made the biggest impression during the month the national teams spent in the United States. Stoichkov became the top scorer of the championship, scoring six goals. The Russian Oleg Salenko has as much. However, Stoichkov is one of the most impressive players in the elimination phase. Already in the groups, he scored two goals for Greece from penalties and one goal against Argentina. However, goals against Mexico, Germany and Italy followed, which helped Bulgaria present one of the biggest sensations in the world of football. Our country reaches the semi-finals, losing 1:2 to Italy after a number of controversial refereeing decisions. In the match for the third place, the "lions" lost 0:4 against Sweden, but they still left a lot of good memories for all of us. And Hristo Stoichkov's free-kick goal against Germany is one of the most iconic moments during this World Cup.

Apart from his national team, Hristo also shines for Barcelona. The Catalans' top scorer is Romario, but the Bulgarian was Barca's second top scorer in the 1993/94 campaign. The team triumphed in the Spanish elite with equal points with Deportivo La Coruña, but better performance in head-to-head matches. Stoichkov has had a very strong spell in late February and early March, scoring in three consecutive games, including two goals in a 5-3 win over Atletico Madrid. The same thing happens at the end of April, when his victims are Valencia, Celta twice and Sporting Gijon. In the last round, Izzo scored two goals in Sevilla's goal as well. At the beginning of the next campaign, the Bulgarian continued to score valuable goals for Barca. Winning goals against Valencia, against Real Oviedo, a goal against Atlético, as well as two against Santiago De Compostela.

In the Champions League in 1994, Barcelona reached the final, where they were surprisingly defeated by Milan with 0:4. Stoichkov has 7 goals in the competition - one less than the top two goalscorers in team-mate Ronald Koeman and Werder Bremen's Wynton Ruffer. At the beginning of the next season, the Bulgarian striker scored three more goals in the groups of the competition.

Hristo Stoichkov was chosen as the best football player in Europe in 1994 because of his great performances in the Spanish champions, one of the best teams in Europe, but also because he became the top scorer in the world championship in the USA, helping Bulgaria to reach fourth place. The "Golden Ball" won by the striker is one of the most significant moments in the football history of our country.