Hristo Stoitchkov, the rowdy Bulgarian forward widely considered one of the greatest players of his generation, likely will end his remarkable career as a member of D.C. United.
United acquired him yesterday from the Chicago Fire for a second-round pick in the 2004 Major League Soccer draft. Stoitchkov, who will turn 37 on Feb. 8, arrived in Washington over the weekend, finalized a new contract and passed a physical, clearing the way for the long-awaited deal to be announced.
He will add depth to D.C.'s renovated front-line corps and serve as an assistant coach under Ray Hudson.
Financial terms were not revealed, but a source close to the team said Stoitchkov, once one of the highest-paid players in the world, is "playing for pennies" to remain in MLS and acquire coaching experience. His wife and two daughters will remain in the Chicago area.
"I'm very excited to be with D.C. United this season and look forward to being a part of something special here," he said in a prepared statement. "I'm looking forward to a new beginning."
He will be introduced at a news conference today at RFK Stadium.
Stoitchkov, a two-time runner-up for FIFA world player of the year while playing for FC Barcelona and co-scoring champion at the U.S.-hosted '94 World Cup when Bulgaria advanced to the semifinals, has been playing in MLS since 2000. He had nine goals and seven assists in his first season with the Fire, but injuries limited him to eight goals and eight assists in only 33 appearances the past two years.
"Hristo brings United a mother lode of world-class experience and majestic skill," Hudson said. "He's a living legend and will be an inspiration on and off the field -- plus he's a lion-heart."
Stoitchkov joins a team that added two other prominent forwards during this offseason: U.S. World Cup veteran Earnie Stewart and University of Virginia all-American Alecko Eskandarian, the top overall pick in the MLS draft this month.
Stewart and Santino Quaranta, entering his third season, are the probable starters.
United also is interested in midfielder-forward Paul Dalglish, an English league journeyman who nearly joined D.C. last year.
United Notes: Stoitchkov will wear No. 8, previously worn by defender Ivan McKinley, who will not return after injuring an Achilles' tendon recently. . . . The club hopes to finalize a contract today with Bulgarian defender Galin Ivanov. . . . D.C. apparently is a few weeks from deciding whether to add midfielder John Harkes, the former U.S. national team captain who played for United from 1996 to '99. Harkes, 35, was let go by Columbus this offseason.