Emil Kostadinov said he would be "happy whoever wins" as the former FC Porto winger looked ahead to watching the Dragons take on an SC Braga side coached by his old strike partner Domingos Paciênca in Wednesday's UEFA Europa League final.
The 43-year-old won two league titles and a Portuguese Cup with Porto between 1990 and 1994, and cannot decide who to get behind for the decider at the Dublin Arena. "I will be happy whoever wins the final," he told UEFA.com. "Both teams deserve the trophy. They are in the final and that means they are the best teams in the tournament. In this final there is no favourite, even though Porto seem stronger on paper."
Kostadinov lives on in the memory of supporters in his native Bulgaria for the last-minute goal against France in 1993 that booked his side a place at the 1994 FIFA World Cup finals, but in Portugal, he is renowned as the striking foil to the striker once known simply as 'Domingos', and the PFC CSKA Sofia sporting director's relationship with the Braga coach is still every bit as good as it was on the pitch.
"Domingos is a wonderful person and we had some great times together at Porto," he recalled. "We are still in touch. We established an excellent attacking partnership. I am sure he will also become a great coach. I am not surprised he has decided to go into coaching, and
I am not surprised that Portuguese coaches are doing so well; when you play under great tacticians like Artur Jorge and Sir Bobby Robson, you learn a lot."
Kostadinov has been in touch with both Paciência and Sir Bobby's one-time coaching protege Villas-Boas in the run-up to the final to wish them luck. "I first met him in 2006 when he was on a scouting mission in Sofia while working at Chelsea [FC], and we have stayed in touch since," he said of José Mourinho's old assistant. "Things have changed at Porto so quickly. André took over not more than a year ago and look at them now. They are a very impressive side with some great players like Falcao and Hulk."
However, while only one side can win on the night, Kostadinov underlined the fact that Porto and Braga's presence in Dublin was a resounding affirmation for Portuguese football. "Portugal as a country is developing football very well," he said. "They work very well with their youth academies and they keep on producing great talents. That's why I am not surprised the Portuguese teams are doing so well in Europe."
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