Ivelin Popov

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Ivelin Popov
Spar-Rub15 (6).jpg
With Spartak in 2015
Personal information
Full name Ivelin Ivanov Popov
Date of birth (1987-10-26) 26 October 1987 (age 29)
Place of birth Sofia, Bulgaria
Height 1.82 m (5 ft 11 12 in)[1]
Playing position Second striker, Right Winger
Club information
Current team
Spartak Moscow
Number 71
Youth career
1993–1998 Septemvri Sofia
1999–2004 Levski Sofia
2004–2005 Feyenoord
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2005–2010 Litex Lovech 96 (25)
2010–2012 Gaziantepspor 60 (6)
2012–2015 Kuban Krasnodar 79 (19)
2015– Spartak Moscow 43 (6)
National team
2006–2008 Bulgaria U21 13 (2)
2007– Bulgaria 66 (12)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 18 March 2017.
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 12 November 2016

Ivelin Ivanov Popov (Bulgarian: Ивелин Иванов Попов; born 26 October 1987) is a Bulgarian footballer playing for Russian Premier League side Spartak Moscow[2] and the Bulgaria national football team as an all-round attacking midfielder.


Youth career[edit]

Popov, pictured, in 2008.

Born in Sofia, Popov started to play football in Septemvri Sofia's academy. In 2005, he trained for four months with Feyenoord but did not sign with the team because he was not 18 years old.[citation needed] In September 2005, he returned to Bulgaria and played in a tournament for Beroe's youth team and there he was spotted by the Litex Lovech scouts.[citation needed]

Litex Lovech[edit]

Popov signed his first professional contract with Litex Lovech in December 2005. He made his European debut in the first leg of Round of 32 Stage in a 0–0 draw against Strasbourg; he made his official debut in the Bulgarian top division in a match against CSKA Sofia on 12 March 2006. He played 59 minutes. The result of the match was a 1–1 draw. On 9 April 2006 he scored his first goal in professional football against Lokomotiv Sofia. The result of the match was a 3–1 win for Litex. The same season, Popov played in 11 matches and scored five goals. In two consecutive seasons, Popov was third placed in the voting for Young player of the year award in 2005–06 and 2006/07 seasons. In 2007/08 UEFA Cup, Popov scored a brace, in a first leg of second round, in a 3-0 win over Besa Kavajë. Eventually, Litex Lovech advanced to the next round, losing to Hamburg in two's leg.[citation needed]

On 18 September 2008, Popov scored a goal in the first round of the UEFA Cup against Aston Villa.[3] In July 2009, Popov was given the captain's armband[citation needed]. At the end of the season, Popov was awarded A League's player of the season after having the most votes in the poll.[4]

In August 2010, he went on trial to Premier League club Blackburn Rovers.[5] He impressed the club, whereafter he received a contract offer, but the move collapsed over his work permit rejected by the British Government, having not played enough international matches.[6]


Kuban Krasnodar[edit]

On 25 August 2012, Popov joined Russian Premier League club Kuban Krasnodar on a three-year contract for an undisclosed fee.[7] According to Chempionat.com, the fee was worth 2 million.[8] He made his debut for the club, coming on as a substitute for Marcos Pizzelli, in a 2-1 win over Dynamo Moscow on 2 September 2012. On 26 October 2012, Popov scored his first goal for the club in a 1-0 win over Rostov. Less than a month later he scored his first brace, putting two goals past Krylia Sovetov and contributing with an assist in a 4-1 home victory.[9] On 13 April 2013, Popov scored a late equalizer in a 2-2 draw away from home to Terek Grozny.[10] On 4 May, he scored a brace as Kuban beat Rostov 2-0 away from home on.[11] On the last day of the 2012–13 season, Popov scored the only goal in a vital 1-0 home victory over Anzhi Makhachkala, securing Kuban a European debut in the Third Qualifying Round of the 2013-14 UEFA Europa League and earning them their best ever finish in the top flight at 5th, having the same points as 4th-placed Spartak Moscow.[12] He finished the season with 9 goals as the club's top goalscorer together with Aras Özbiliz.[13]

Because of his outstanding performance in the 2012–13 season, Popov was appointed as captain of Kuban Krasnodar for the 2013-2014 season. He captained his team to its first away victory of the season over Russian Premier League newcomer, Tom Tomsk, by contributing with a pair of assists. The match ended with a 1-2 score. His first brace came shortly after, in a historical first ever match in a European championship for Kuban. He netted 2 goals in a 0-2 away victory over Scottish Premier League runners-up Motherwell in the first leg of a qualifying match for the UEFA Europa League. Both goals were assisted by team-mate Ibrahima Baldé.[14] This resulted in his jersey being displayed in the National football museum.

On 28 April 2014, Ivelin Popov scored an away brace against strong Spartak Moscow in a 0-2 victory. This outstanding performance got him voted as player of week 27 in the Russian Premier League. He continued his good run the week after, which saw him providing 2 assist, marking a 4-0 victory over Krylia Sovetov. The first assist was turned into a goal, scored by fellow Bulgarian teammate Stanislav Manolev, marking his first goal for the club after recently being transferred from PSV Eindhoven. Popov was named man of the match for the second time in a row, earning him a spot in Russian premier league team of the week. He finished his season in Russia having provided 12 assists; making him the joint top assists provider of the season, alongside Danny from Zenit St. Petersburg. He was also included in the team of the season 2013-2014, because of his consistency throughout the whole campaign.

Spartak Moscow[edit]

On 3 June 2015, it was announced that Popov had signed a long-term contract with Spartak Moscow. It was reported that the signing fee cost the club about €7 million.[2] Popov made his league debut for Spartak as a starter in a 2-2 home draw to Ufa on 17 July. He scored his first two official goals for the club on 23 September, in a 7:0 win away to Volga Nizhny Novgorod in the Round of 32 in the Russian Cup. He followed that with his first league goal for the club, coming against Zenit as Spartak drew 2:2 at home. The goal featured a spectacular lob over Zenit defender Javi García, followed by another lob over the goalkeeper Yuri Lodigin. Popov's performance earned him the Best Player award for the 10th round of the 2015-16 Russian Premier League, as well as the most valuable player award for the month of September.[15][16] He scored for the third consecutive game on 3 October, netting the only goal in a 1-0 win away to Mordovia Saransk.

International career[edit]

Popov with Bulgaria in 2011

In August 2007, Dimitar Penev called Popov up to the Bulgaria national team squad for the friendly match with Wales. On 11 February 2009, he scored his first goal for Bulgaria against Switzerland. On 2 April 2009, Popov scored the first of two goals for Bulgaria in the 2-0 win against Cyprus. On 9 February 2011, Popov scored twice from the penalty spot in a 2-2 friendly draw with Estonia, but the result was subsequently declared void by FIFA and expunged from the records due to suspicions of match fixing with the involvement of the game officials.[17][18] He captained the national team during the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification, providing his team with two goals, including a 25-yard free kick goal against Armenia national football team, throughout a tough campaign, having to face strong national teams like those of Italy, the Czech Republic and Denmark.

In 2015, Popov was a crucial figure in the 2-2 home draw versus Italy. He hit the back of the net to tie the score at 1-1 in the 11th minute, raising the spirits of his compatriots after a disappointing own-goal in the 4th minute. This resulted in a series of swift attacks from the home team which saw them grab the lead in the 17th minute. They were able to keep their lead until the 84th minute, but in the end had to settle for a 2-2 draw after a late equalizer. In the next official match, he once again proved his worth after the only goal in a tough but decisive 0-1 away win against Malta, keeping the hopes alive of his national team qualifying for Euro 2016.


Popov's name became associated with scandal early in his career and became synonymous with irresponsibility and lack of discipline. In April 2007, he was removed from Litex's starting roster due to bad form.[19]

In September 2008, Popov was banned from the youth national team following an incident on the team bus, where he threw a bottle at the bus driver–-hitting him on the head–-who then lost control, narrowly avoiding a crash.[20]

In September 2010, just days before the Euro 2012 qualifier against England, Popov led a group of teammates out of the training camp in Pravets and took them to Botevgrad so they could celebrate Valeri Bojinov's birthday, where the players consumed large amounts of alcohol. Days later, Bulgaria lost to England 0:4. In September 2011, as Bulgaria was preparing to host England for the second leg of the Euro 2012 qualifier, Popov again led a group of players to a bar, where they drank until 4am, angering then coach Lothar Matthäus. Bulgaria lost to England 0:3 at home.[21]

On November 16, 2014, Popov missed a penalty against Malta in a Euro 2016 qualifier, allowing for the match to end in a 1:1 draw. Following the game, Popov was accused of missing the penalty on purpose.[22] Days later, it came to light that Popov had abused and humiliated the national team masseur on several occasions, forcing him to do pushups in front of the other players.[23] At this point, the executive committee of the Bulgarian Football Union had seen enough and proceeded to ban Popov from the national team for life.[24]

Nevertheless, in 2015, newly appointed head coach Ivaylo Petev reinstated Popov to the squad. The captain's band, however, went to midfielder Svetoslav Dyakov.

Career statistics[edit]


As of 25 February 2017

Club Season League Cup Europe Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Litex Lovech 2005–06 9 5 2 0 1 0 12 5
2006–07 19 1 0 0 2 0 21 1
2007–08 25 10 4 1 6 5 35 16
2008–09 22 3 3 4 4 2 29 9
2009–10 18 6 1 0 0 0 19 6
2010–11 3 0 0 0 4 1 4 1
Total 96 25 10 5 17 8 123 38
Gaziantepspor 2010–11 28 2 8 3 36 5
2011–12 32 4 1 2 4 1 37 7
Total 60 6 9 5 4 1 73 12
Kuban Krasnodar 2012–13 23 9 3 0 26 9
2013–14 29 6 0 0 8 3 37 9
2014–15 27 4 5 1 - - 32 5
Total 79 19 8 1 8 3 95 23
Spartak Moscow 2015–16 29 4 2 2 31 6
2016–17 12 2 1 0 1 0 14 2
Total 41 6 3 2 1 0 45 8
Career totals 276 56 30 13 30 12 336 81

National team[edit]

Bulgaria national team
Year Apps Goals
2007 4 0
2008 4 0
2009 4 2
2010 9 2
2011 7 1
2012 9 1
2013 9 2
2014 5 0
2015 7 2
2016 8 2
Total 66 12
Ivelin Popov: International Goals
# Date Location Opponent Score Result Competition
1. 11 February 2009 Switzerland   Switzerland 0–1 1–1 Friendly
2. 1 April 2009 Sofia, Bulgaria  Cyprus 1–0 2–0 World Cup 2010 Qual.
3. 19 May 2010 Brussels, Belgium  Belgium 0-1 2–1 Friendly.
4. 8 October 2010 Cardiff, Wales  Wales 0-1 0-1 Euro 2012 Qual.
5. 4 June 2011 Podgorica, Montenegro  Montenegro 1-1 1–1 Euro 2012 Qual.
6. 26 May 2012 Amsterdam, Netherlands  Netherlands 1-1 1–2 Friendly
7. 22 March 2013 Sofia, Bulgaria  Malta 3-0 6–0 World Cup 2014 Qual.
8. 11 October 2013 Yerevan, Armenia  Armenia 1-1 2–1 World Cup 2014 Qual.
9. 28 March 2015 Sofia, Bulgaria  Italy 1-1 2–2 Euro 2016 Qual.
10. 12 June 2015 Malta  Malta 0-1 0–1 Euro 2016 Qual.
11. 6 September 2016 Sofia, Bulgaria  Luxembourg 3-2 4–3 World Cup 2018 Qual.
12. 13 November 2016 Sofia, Bulgaria  Belarus 1-0 1–0 World Cup 2018 Qual.



Litex Lovech



  1. ^ "Българите с половин сантиметър по-високи" (in Bulgarian). 7sport.net. 1 September 2011. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  2. ^ a b ИВЕЛИН ПОПОВ: «ДЛЯ МЕНЯ БОЛЬШАЯ ЧЕСТЬ ЗАЩИЩАТЬ КРАСНО-БЕЛЫЕ ЦВЕТА!» (in Russian). FC Spartak Moscow. 3 June 2015. 
  3. ^ "Cats send out scout to track Popov". Liverpool Daily Post. Retrieved 19 September 2008. 
  4. ^ "Popov named best in Bulgaria". UEFA.com. 10 May 2010. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 
  5. ^ "Popov Trial Complete - Rovers Consider Making Offer". Lancashire Evening Telegraph. Retrieved 21 August 2010. 
  6. ^ "Blackburn Rovers target Ivelin Popov denied work permit". Daily Telegraph. 1 September 2010. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
  7. ^ "ПОПОВ СТАЛ ИГРОКОМ "КУБАНИ"". fckuban.ru. Retrieved 25 August 2012. 
  8. ^ ""Kuban" paid the captain of Bulgaria Popov € 2 million (in Russian:"Кубань" заплатила за капитана сборной Болгарии Попова € 2 млн)" (in Russian). Chempionat.com. 25 August 2012. Retrieved January 2013.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  9. ^ Kuban Krasnodar vs Kryliya Sovetov (Soccerway.com)
  10. ^ Terek Grozny vs Kuban Krasnodar (Soccerway.com)
  11. ^ FC Rostov vs Kuban Krasnodar (Soccerway.com)
  12. ^ Kuban Krasnodar vs Anzhi Makhachkala (Soccerway.com)
  13. ^ Russian Premier League 2012-13 (Soccerway.com)
  14. ^ "Motherwell 0 Kuban Krasnodar 2: Popov double inspires Toads to victory at Fir Park". Daily Mail. 1 August 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 
  15. ^ a b Ивелин Попов — MVP 10-го тура и сентября РФПЛ (Championat.com, 29 September 2015)
  16. ^ a b MVP (Championat.com)
  17. ^ "FIFA Annuls Result of Bulgaria-Estonia Rigged Friendly". Novinite.com. Retrieved 31 January 2012. 
  18. ^ "Referee of Rigged Bulgaria-Estonia Friendly Arrested". Novinite.com. Retrieved 31 January 2012. 
  19. ^ "Popov Kicked Out Of Litex" (in Bulgarian). Standart News. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  20. ^ "Popov Banned From The Youth National Team" (in Bulgarian). Winner.bg. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  21. ^ "Popov Banned From The National Team For Life" (in Bulgarian). Standart News. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  22. ^ "Popov: I Didn't Miss The Penalty On Purpose" (in Bulgarian). Gol.bg. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  23. ^ "Another Scandal Involving Ivelin Popov In The National Team" (in Bulgarian). Don Balon. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  24. ^ "Popov Banned From The National Team For Life" (in Bulgarian). Standart News. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  25. ^ "Иван Иванов е футболист на годината" (in Bulgarian). sportni.bg. Retrieved 2014-01-04. 
  26. ^ Soccerway.com Motherwell VS Kuban Krasnodar, 1 August 2013

External links[edit]