Former Barcelona striker Hristo Stoichkov has confessed he is an admirer of Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho.
The 46-year-old represented the Catalans in two spells between 1990 and 1998, yet says because the Portuguese coaches Barca’s greatest rivals he has to dislike him.
“I admire Mourinho a lot, he’s my friend, but he is the Coach of Real Madrid and I have to dislike him.
“Any club that contracts Mourinho has already won because of his character, his philosophy and the football he practices, as always wins.
“Jose Mourinho and I are friends, he coached me, and I have lots of affection for him, but he is Madrid and I’m Barca,” Stoichkov told Onda Cero’s Al Primer Toque programme.
Stoichkov, who is currently in charge of Bulgarian outfit Litex Lovech, justified Mourinho’s policy towards the Real Madrid youth set-up, which has been the subject of recent controversy.
“Barcelona are the example for lots of teams as they are the only ones in the world who produce their own players. In England, for example, they buy from abroad and put them in their academies.
“The last Madrid youth team player was Iker Casillas. There have been others but they haven’t had the luck to remain there. If anyone leaves then Mourinho replaces him.”
The new era at Barcelona also came under Stoichkov’s scrutiny.
“It doesn’t matter who the Coach of Barcelona is because they are still the best team in the world. Tito was appointed from within and it was a great decision.
“With Pep [Guardiola], Barca won things and it will be the same with Tito. The only thing I ask of Tito is that he doesn’t put on a tracksuit. It can seem strange after seeing Pep wearing a suit for four years,” smiled Stoichkov.
He also commented on who he thought should win the coveted Ballon d’Or award.
“With hand on heart, as a footballer and a person who watches football, I think Andres Iniesta deserves it. He has won titles with his club, the World Cup and the European Championship.
“Of course, Lionel Messi is far and away above everyone else but both Xavi Hernandez and Iniesta warrant it.”