Bulgarian giants CSKA Sofia fold as Stoichkov handed full control

Hristo StoichkovBy Andrew Warshaw
June 24 - Bulgaria's most successful club, CSKA Sofia, has declared itself bankrupt and will try to merge with another club to carry on competing in a different guise next season - or end up in the amateur ranks. The 31-time national champions have been struggling financially in recent years, along with many Bulgarian clubs, and were barred from the Champions League in 2008-09 after failing to meet UEFA's licensing criteria.

"CSKA that we know exists no more," said Hristo Stoichkov, Bulgaria's former European Footballer of the Year who was named coach of his former club earlier this month. "We'll start afresh, without debts."

"CSKA must now find another team with which to merge in order to use their licence and remain in Bulgaria's first division."

CSKA will now not play in next season's Europa League despite qualifying for the competition by finishing third in the domestic table.

Speculation is rife that they may merge with four-times champions Litex Lovech, otherwise they will become amateurs if no deal is struck by July 20, the start of the Bulgarian league.

The club said in a statement that they have transferred their 6.5 million shares to Stoichkov, an iconic figure in Bulgaria who led his country to the 1994 World Cup semi-finals. "After talks with Hristo Stoichkov, we took a common decision to transfer him all the club's shares," Dimitar Borisov, one of the club's owners, said. "We, as owners have absolutely no financial claims."

"As responsible people, we decided that Hristo Stoichkov will take the decisions about the future of the club. We took these actions because of the grave financial situation of CSKA and our inability to support the club."

CSKA reached three European semi-finals between 1967 and 1989 but not won the domestic league title since 2008. Potentially making a merger more difficult is the fact that Bulgaria's top flight will be cut by two teams to 14 next season.

Contact the writer of this story at andrew.warshaw@insideworldfootball,com