Emil Kostadinov: 'The highest level I reached in my career'
Emil Kostadinov played for Bayern from the start of 1995 until summer 1996. The now 53-year-old is currently vice-president of the Bulgarian FA in his homeland. During his time in Munich, he lifted the 1996 UEFA Cup, playing a key role in the triumph with a goal and an assist in the 3-1 win over Bordeaux in the second leg of the final. Talking to members’ magazine ‘51’, he looked back on that trophy win.
Interview with Emil Kostadinov
What are your memories of winning the UEFA Cup with Bayern in 1995/96?
“It was a fantastic time for me as a player, and probably the highest level I reached during my career. It was a wonderful feeling being part of that team and winning the UEFA Cup. I was able to play alongside legends like Lothar Matthäus, Jürgen Klinsmann, Oliver Kahn and Jean-Pierre Papin – all world-class players who helped me to develop and learn. Not many people can say they’ve been part of the Bayern family.”
You spent a year and a half with Bayern. What’s stuck with you?
“My teammates, who were fantastic, but also the coaches, who were on another level from what I experienced at other clubs. I was able to work with Giovanni Trapattoni in Munich – and then with Franz Beckenbauer, who for me is the greatest I played under. I remember the time fondly, and the fact I could score a goal for this great club in the UEFA Cup final still makes me proud today. It’s the sort of thing every player dreams of.“
Why do you think Beckenbauer was so special?
“Beckenbauer gave me a chance and believed in me from the first day when he took over the team. His approach with every player, and above all me, was just super. I got to know him fondly as a coach and a person. Beckenbauer is always friendly and open to everybody. He was even given an honorary degree at our national sports academy in Sofia in 2000. Before the final, he told me I should be calm and play like I usually do. I’ll always be grateful to him. If it weren’t for him, maybe I wouldn’t have scored a goal in the European final.”
Were you nervous? What are your memories of your goal?
“I’d played well in the previous games, so I believed I could make something happen. I wasn’t nervous but was positively excited. Jean-Pierre Papin, who I replaced in the final, came to me and encouraged me to take my chances. I then set up Mehmet Scholl for his goal with a back heel and then scored one myself. With my goal, I have to say my heading ability was often underestimated. But the truth is I actually scored a lot of headed goals and they tended to look good. In this case, I managed to find space to perfectly divert the ball. It’s one of the greatest moments in my career.”