Bulgaria mourns free-scoring striker Slavkov

The 1981 European Golden Boot winner with 31 goals for PFC Botev Plovdiv, former Bulgarian international Georgi Slavkov has died of a heart attack at the age of 55.

Georgi Slavkov has died suddenly at the age of 55
Georgi Slavkov has died suddenly at the age of 55 ©Meridian Match

Former Bulgaria forward Georgi Slavkov, who won the European Golden Boot in 1981 with 31 goals for PFC Botev Plovdiv, has died from a heart attack at the age of 55.

"We are sad to announce that one of Botev's greatest players has died suddenly this afternoon, just minutes after the end of his working day as chief director of our football complex, Botev 1912," read a Botev club statement. "Botev offers the club's condolences to his family. Rest in peace, Zhoro." A statement from another of Slavkov's clubs, PFC CSKA Sofia, reads: "Today one of our legends and a great man passed away at just 55. Our deep condolences to Georgi Slavkov's family and friends."

One of the most celebrated marksmen in Bulgarian football, Slavkov struck 11 times in 37 games for Bulgaria from 1978–82, and outstripped Hungary's Tibor Nyilasi (30 goals for Ferencvárosi TC) and Germany's Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (29 for FC Bayern München) to be the continent's top scorer in 1981.

He lifted the Bulgarian Cup with Botev in the same year, registering 62 goals in 112 matches over three spells with the Plovdiv side, and claimed two league titles and two Bulgarian Cups in two stints at PFC CSKA Sofia. Slavkov later moved to France, representing AS Saint-Étienne from 1986–88, and enjoyed further footballing adventures in Portugal and Israel, with GD Chaves and Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC respectively.

Botev's greatest ever player Dinko Dermendzhiev said: "It is hard for me to find the words. I cannot believe it. Georgi was one the greatest ever strikers – a tremendous talent. He scored the winner in Botev's 1-0 victory against FC Barcelona in the Cup Winners' Cup in 1981 – a moment Botev fans will treasure for ever."