Former Barcelona and Bulgaria star Hristo Stoichkov has criticised the decision to award Jude Bellingham the 2023 Golden Boy award, claiming that the Real Madrid midfielder did not do enough to merit the prize.

The Golden Boy award, which is given by Italian sports newspaper Tuttosport to the best player in Europe under the age of 21, was announced on Friday, with Bellingham beating the likes of Jamal Musiala and Alejandro Balde to the award.

Bellingham, who joined Real Madrid from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, has scored 13 goals in 14 matches for the Spanish giants, including a brace in the Clasico win over Barcelona last month. He also won the Kopa Trophy for the best young player in the world at the Ballon d’Or ceremony in November.

However, Stoichkov, who won the Ballon d’Or himself in 1994, was not impressed by Bellingham’s achievements, and argued that other players deserved the Golden Boy award more.

In an interview with Tuttosport, Stoichkov said: “I don’t dispute Bellingham’s value, he is one of the strongest talents in the world: he has a lot of class and a lot of brain. For me he is a mix between Laudrup, Kaká and young Pogba. The future is his. He will fight with Mbappé and Haaland for the next Ballon d’Or, but I would like to know what he won in 2023 between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid to deserve the award? Nothing…”

Stoichkov, who is a football commentator for TUDN, suggested that Bayern Munich’s Musiala or Barcelona’s Balde should have won the award instead.

“Since Gavi was not eligible by regulation I would have rewarded Musiala or Balde the Golden Boy Award instead,” Stoichkov said.

Stoichkov also said that Bellingham’s goals have not resulted in trophies for Real Madrid.

“What success have all these goals brought to Real Madrid? Stoichkov explained. “You know well what my friend Mourinho would say about ‘titles’… Shall we talk then about how the last one ended Bundesliga? Borussia Dortmund had a two-point lead over Bayern with 90 minutes left in the championship. They were playing at home against Mainz, while the Bavarians were in Cologne. What happened with 5 minutes left? Tuchel introduced Musiala, who in the final stretch scored the 3-2 for Bayern while Borussia did not go beyond a 2-2 draw at home and goodbye to the title due to goal difference…”

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