The night of 26 June 2020 was tremendously special for one of the brightest Bulgarian footballing prospects- the Czech side AC Sparta Praha announced the arrival of Martin Minchev from Cherno More Varna on a 4-year contract. The likes of Red Star Belgrade, RSC Anderlecht as well as Celtic FC were all intrigued by the possibility of boosting their squads with the pacey winger but the 19-year-old chose the comfort of Czech Republic instead. In this article we will take a look at his first steps and development as a footballer as well as analysis of his play style including strengths and weaknesses.
Martin Yankov Minchev was born on 22 April 2002 in Varna, Bulgaria. Martin is passionate about football from a very early age despite the fact there aren’t any footballers in his precursors. At the age of 7 he showed up in the academy of Cherno More Varna with 4 classmates of his. During the first training sessions with the club, Martin wore a Manchester United shirt of his idol- Cristiano Ronaldo. His first ever coach, Strahil Baychev, explains that Minchev was a humble and hard-working child since the very beginning. What’s more, the youngster understood the importance of extra trainings, so it wasn’t a problem for him to stay for an additional hour or so working on his weaknesses. Martin has operated in the striker position at the start of his career but throughout the years has been used in various positions, even at the centre of the defence! Strahil Baychev explains:
‘Once we were competing in a tournament in Ruse and my centre back received a red card and, in the next match, I needed Martin in the centre of the defence. He did very well, we got to the final and won the tournament. The fact he learned to play at the back helps him right now because he perfectly knows that in the modern football the attackers are the first defenders.’
Another youth coach of Minchev’s, Martin Hristov, reveals that the teenager had leadership skills and always tried to help his teammates. Hristov also expresses his astonishment when it comes to Martin’s football intelligence- he always tried to improve himself and valued every feedback of his coaches.
The youngster played in almost every youth setup before debuting for the first team of Cherno More just a day after becoming 16 years of age. His solid first team performances attracted the attention of all the Bulgarian powerhouses with CSKA Sofia, Levski Sofia and Ludogorets Razgrad all interested in Minchev. However, the starlet rejected all these offers stating that Cherno More is his childhood team and his only dream was to establish himself as an important first team member and this is exactly what happened. Minchev played a total number of 78 matches in 3 campaigns. The most fruitful season for him was the last one which saw him scoring on 6 occasions in 21 games. This understandably led to attention from not only Bulgarian but European clubs as well. Celtic FC and Red Star Belgrade were rumoured to be bidding for him but, at the end of the day, it was AC Sparta Praha who won the race for Minchev’s signature.
Martin Minchev usually plays on the left hand side of the pitch but is also comfortable playing on the right side as well as in the striker position or even as a typical number 10 which brings us to his biggest weapon- versatility. The starlet is capable of playing absolutely everywhere in the attacking force and is usually given a free role during the game. Minchev is mostly known for his dribbles down the flanks which are followed by accurate crosses. Especially with tall strikers in the team (like Ismail Isa for Cherno More) his excellent crossing abilities come in handy. Sometimes, when his team experiences difficulties regaining possession, Minchev is no stranger to dropping deep and winning the ball which makes him the start of the attacking build up. As a number 10, Martin prefers distributing the ball to either flanks rather than giving it directly to the central forward. When used as a striker, the teenager usually has a more passive role which opens up space for the attacking inside forwards on both sides of the pitch. Minchev is not a natural lethal finisher but has an instinct when to attempt shots which usually end in succession. The Bulgarian’s work rates and determination are also worth mentioning as he never stops running until the last minutes of the game- some even say he is very dangerous in the dying minutes of the match as high proportion of his goal contributions are after the 70th minute. The flair, agility and off the ball movement are some of his strengths which make him a nightmare when trying to be man marked by an opponent. What the winger needs to work on, however, is his composure and concentration as he could often isolate himself from the game when things aren’t going his way.
Martin Minchev is obliged to hit the ground running in Czech Republic if he is to succeed as a footballer. Provided that, he could become one of the best Bulgarians to play abroad in recent times.