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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bulgaria to Barcelona, Stoichkov Is Top Dog

BARCELONA, Spain -- Bulgarian Hristo Stoichkov gets an unnecessary boost of self-confidence by being named as this year's Golden Ball award winner, emblematic of the European soccer player of the year.


The prize, European soccer's most prestigious individual trophy, is awarded by the weekly magazine France Football.


The 28-year-old FC Barcelona forward, known for his swagger, fiery temper and for being a downright bully on the field, is nothing if not confident -- and 1994 was nothing short of sensational.


The year saw Stoichkov's Barcelona team win its fourth straight Spanish league title and reach the finals of the Champions League. Playing with Bulgaria in this summer's World Cup in the United States, he guided his side to an unprecedented appearance in the semifinals and was the co-leader in World Cup scoring with six goals.


He was also named to the first World Cup all-star team along with the Brazilian Romario -- his teammate at Barcelona.


Italy's Roberto Baggio won the award in 1993 and three-time winner Marco Van Basten of the Netherlands won his last award in 1992.


"He won the (Spanish league), played in the European Cup final, led the World Cup in scoring and played a big part in Bulgaria's success,'' Baggio said in an interview last week in Barcelona. "Hristo deserves it.''


Stoichkov, born in Bulgaria's second largest city Plovdiv, joined first-division Bulgarian team CSKA in 1984 and scored 81 goals for the club in six seasons before moving to Barcelona in 1990.


The Spanish club has won the first division title every season since his arrival.


"Here (in Barcelona) we've won four straight since I arrived,'' Stoichkov said in an interview in the daily newspaper La Vanguardia. "But I arrived having won five straight championships in the Bulgarian league. If we win a fifth straight this year at Barcelona, I'll go into the record books as the only professional player to win 10 straight league titles.''


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The chief executive of English soccer's premier league threatened severe penalties Monday as every effort was made to repair the tarnished image of the crisis-hit sport.


Rick Parry suggested anyone found guilty of transfer irregularities would be dealt with in the toughest possible way by the newly-created Commission of Inquiry, appointed to investigate a series of damaging allegations about cheating, bribery, drugs and other scandals in the English game.


"Our aim is to help put football's house in order," said Parry, who is chairman of the three-man commission. "No individual or club is bigger than football itself. The integrity of the game is our prime concern."


Parry's pledge was accompanied by comments from the chairman of the English Football Association Sir Bert Millichip. In a television interview, he said: "We've had a terrible month.


"The only consolation is that the allegations have all come at the same time. Hopefully we can put them right."


Parry had vowed earlier: "The Commission of Inquiry is determined to complete a thorough and rigorous inquiry into all the recent allegations concerning transfer irregularities."


Parry made no direct comment on any individual cases and avoided any reference to recent newspaper reports surrounding Arsenal manager George Graham or other managers associated with alleged transfer irregularities by the British tabloid press.


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Eintracht Frankfurt's German World Cup midfielder Maurizio Gaudino, detained by police last week for questioning in a fraud case, is to join English premier league Manchester City on loan.


In a statement issued Monday, the Bundesliga club said Manchester City would pay 500,000 marks ($318,000) for Gaudino's services until the end of next June. After this, the statement said, the English club would have the option of paying 3.5 million marks to complete a permanent transfer.


Gaudino was put on the transfer list last week after a training row. "Eintracht Frankfurt decided at short notice to agree to this transfer in the interests of a new beginning for the athlete," the club statement said.


Gaudino was detained by police last Wednesday and questioned on suspicion of car theft and receiving stolen property. He denied the charges. He was released Thursday and a warrant for his arrest was dropped. (Reuters, AP)