GEORGI Dermendzhiev

Ryan Giggs is still a relative newcomer to football management, but when Bulgaria arrive at the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday, the Cymru boss will find himself up against one of the senior statesmen of the international game in Georgi Dermendzhiev.

The 65-year old former defender was appointed as Bulgaria manager in October 2019, the latest chapter in a coaching and managerial career that began with Spartak Plovdiv in his native country back in 1998. His journey has taken him to seven different clubs, including a year spent managing in Kazakhstan, and he has now been rewarded with the challenge of leading Bulgaria to the EURO finals next summer as they prepare to take on Hungary in the play-offs.

“He possesses what I would call 'life wisdom',” explained Bulgarian football journalist Stoyan Georgiev to FC Cymru when asked about the strengths of the national team manager. “He knows his players very well and how to use their best qualities, and he fits the profile of a successful national team coach because of his age and experience. He knows how to create a positive environment, but his most important quality is his ability to win when it matters. He twice guided Ludogorets to the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, and his side did quite well against the likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool, Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain.

“Under his predecessor, Krasimir Balakov, Bulgaria played with 4-1-4-1 system with the strange decision of putting the ageing Georgi Sarmov in midfield,” Georgiev added. “Dermendzhiev uses 4-2-3-1 with players like the hard working Kristiyan Malinov and Georgi Kostadinov protecting the back four. Under Dermendzhiev, Bulgaria finished the EURO 2020 qualifying campaign with an excellent 1-0 home win over a strong Czech Republic side. The team showed togetherness and desire, were well-organised and patient, waiting for the right moment to hit the opponent. This game showed what we can expect from Dermendzhiev, and he will continue in that direction, no matter what the results will bring.”

As a player, Dermendzhiev played over 200 games, winning the Bulgarian Cup with Slavia Sofia in 1980. However, it was his achievements as the manager of Ludogorets that brought him to the attention of the national team, winning three consecutive league titles between 2015 and 2017. “It could be said that Dermendzhiev was the logical choice because of his experience and success at Ludogorets,” explained Georgiev.

“But also because he was the only reasonable option left. Before him, legends like Hristo Stoichkov, Lubo Penev, Petar Hubchev and Krasimir Balakov were used, chewed-up and thrown out. Highly-rated coaches like Stanimir Stoilov, Dimitar Dimitrov and Ivaylo Petev were hired too, while foreigners like Lothar Matthaus also got involved, but they all failed to deliver. Dermendzhiev has more similarities with the great Dimitar Penev, the coach of the 'golden generation' that reached the semi-final of the 1994 World Cup.”

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now