Stoichkov lets fly at Cruyff : FOOTBALL

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The Independent Online
Hristo Stoichkov, the European player of the year, and Johan Cruyff, his coach at Barcelona, are no longer on speaking terms and the striker's future at the club is in doubt. "There is no question of me packing my bags now," Stoichkov said, "but whether I will be here next season is another matter." The 28-year-old Bulgarian launched a public attack on his Dutch coach at the presentation of Fifa's world player of the year award to his friend, and former Barcelona team-mate, Romario.

"Something has gone wrong between me and the coach," he said. "When we lose I am always the one singled out for blame. When we win, the whole team get the praise."

An astonished Cruyff has not forgiven Stoichkov, telling him to live up to his reputation and responsibilities. "He hasn't played a single full game for us since the beginning of December," Cruyff said.

Stoichkov arrived late for the award ceremony in Lisbon and blamed Cruyff for delaying his departure by forcing him to join the team for morning training in Barcelona.

On his return from Lisbon, Stoichkov initially refused to join the team for the flight to Malaga, where they played a friendly match against the German club Werder Bremen. He relented after talking to his business manager, Joseph Minguella, and joined the rest of the squad.

This season, Cruyff has already lost Romario, who joined the Rio de Janeiro club, Flamengo, last month. But he appears to be ready to take a strong stand against Stoichkov, whom he singled out for criticism after Barcelona's 5-0 drubbing by the championship leaders Real Madrid a month ago.

Cruyff said then: "Stoichkov should concentrate on training and playing, and start worrying about praise and awards later. Not the other way round."

Meanwhile, Oleg Salenko has denounced his coach at Valencia as incompetent and said that he would like to play in Japan.

Salenko, who is also out of favour with the Russian national team, said that Carlos Alberto Parreira, Brazil's World Cup-winning coach, was to blame for Valencia's woes. The club are 11th in the Spanish First Division, nine points behind Real Madrid.

"We have not won since 29 October, yet Parreira has not thought to change tactics. The basic ideas are the same - keeping the ball, playing from defence. We often have all 10 outfield players in the same half of the field." Salenko said.

Salenko accused Parreira of discriminating against himself and his fellow striker, Lyuboslav Penev, of Bulgaria.

"It's an old story - they're looking for someone to blame. Of course, it's easiest of all to link failures to the foreign players," he said.

Salenko said he would welcome a chance to play in Japan. "A three-year contract to play there would suit me just fine."

Luis Figo, the Portuguese international, said yesterday that he had signed for Parma on a three-year contract after turning down Juventus. The transfer fee being paid to Sporting Lisbon for Figo, the second Portuguese player to sign for Parma after Fernando Couto, who joined from Porto, was not disclosed.

Sporting had said last month that the 22-year-old midfield player would be transferred to Juventus. But Figo said: "With Juventus, I just signed a [pre-contract] agreement. Later, I cancelled this agreement so I am free to decide my own future."

Simone Barbaglia will be tried for murder after the stabbing of Vincenzo Spagnolo, it was announced in Genoa yesterday. He could face a life sentence.

The 19-year-old Milan fan, who was arrested on Monday, claimed he had lashed out with a knife after being attacked by a group of Genoa fans before the match between the two teams.

Earlier, the prime minister, Lamberto Dini, said that the Italian government would take steps to eliminate crowd trouble if the country's sporting authorities failed to act.

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