LONDON • Louis van Gaal is liable to destroy his players at Manchester United, based on his spell at Barcelona, according to former Bulgaria striker Hristo Stoichkov.
Stoichkov, now a commentator, played under van Gaal at the Catalan football club and it is no secret that the two disliked each other.
He was one of the star names to be alienated and moved on by the Dutchman, along with Guillermo Amor and Juan Antonio Pizzi, to make way for Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol and Andres Iniesta, who were all given their debuts by van Gaal.
The United manager has fallen out with Victor Valdes, last season's second-choice goalkeeper at United, with David de Gea, the first- choice custodian, also keen to join Real Madrid.
Stoichkov appeared to draw parallels with van Gaal's time in Spain.
"Players suffer, because as a player van Gaal was so mediocre," he told Marca, the Spanish newspaper.
"He destroys players because he was so mediocre. Look at the players who have left because of him. His first time at Barca, he destroyed them, now he has invented another one to destroy and take years to rebuild."
Stoichkov, who won the Ballon d'Or in 1994, also warned Pedro Rodriguez about leaving Barcelona for Old Trafford. The Spanish winger has found first-team opportunities hard to come by since the arrival of Luis Suarez, and United are known to be interested in signing him.
"I would never leave if I was Pedro, because if he goes there, he's just another player," Stoichkov said. "I wish he would listen to me.
"Barca don't need the money, no matter if it's €20 million (S$30.9 million), €30 million or €50 million. Pedro is a symbol of Barcelona."
United have invested heavily in players this summer, including Matteo Darmian, Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger. They narrowly beat Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 on the opening day of the English Premier League season, thanks to an own goal by Kyle Walker.
"It turns out he needs €200 million to spend and the other day I saw his first Premier League game," Stoichkov said. "It was a disaster. United won 1-0 with an own goal and he's content. You have to have a short memory."
Van Gaal took over from Bobby Robson in his first spell as Barcelona manager in 1997, winning La Liga in each of his first two seasons, but fell out with a number of players, including Rivaldo and Stoichkov, who left the club after making just eight appearances in the Dutchman's first season.
THE TIMES, LONDON