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CSKA’s new coach Luboslav Penev is relatively inexperienced.

By Rumen Paytashev in Sofia
Two hours after CSKA Sofia’s humiliating Bulgarian Cup quarter-final defeat at home to Pirin Blagoevgrad, coach Dimitar Penev was sacked…and replaced by his nephew, Luboslav Penev.

Penev junior was one of the country’s golden generation of the 1990s. Player of the Year in 1988, he won 62 caps for his country and spent 10 years in Spain, where he captained Valencia and won the league-and-cup double with Atletico Madrid in 1996.

However, on hearing of his appointment at CSKA, Lubo’s uncle told him: “You are a traitor! I can’t believe that you are standing against me. I gave you the start of your career and everything you achieved in football is thanks to me.”

It was common knowledge that Dimitar Penev’s days as coach with the Bulgarian champions were numbered and the Pirin shock was just the excuse needed to sack the 63-year-old. But the real surprise came with the ascension of a man whose only previous coaching experience was a three-month spell helping Plamen Markov look after the national team.

“I am coming in at a very complicated time for the club,” said Lubo Penev. “Our aim is to be champions and I am not afraid I don’t have coaching experience.

“My experience as a player is a serious basis for my development as a coach. I will insist on new order, discipline and serious behaviour to the work.”

The 42-year-old will be assisted by Jesus Paredes, the Spaniard who was Luis Aragones’ right-hand man when Spain won Euro 2008, and the former international referee Dimitar Dimitrov, but his biggest problems will almost certainly be away from the pitch.

“The current situation insists on double leadership. This is a complicated transaction,” said new CSKA executive director Ventsislav Zhivkov when he presented the new coach. “Dimitar Penev will stay and work at the club.”

Even before his earlier outburst at his nephew, everyone in Bulgarian football knows that Dimitar Penev, who is supposed to oversee the work of the coach, can not work with Lubo – because when the striker returned from his spell playing in Spain he became a president of CSKA and sacked his uncle from a previous coaching role in 2000.

The newcomer will also have to deal with the fact CSKA are saddled with enormous debts and the actual ownership of the club remains shrouded in mystery.

“Now it’s not clear who is a leader of the club. The situation is very confused. Lubo is taking a risk,” says Emil Kostadinov, a former executive director of the club. “The people who wish to buy the club are not clear about what kind of responsibility it is to buy CSKA.”

Dimitar Penev revealed the scale of the financial problem when he admitted: “The players didn’t receive their salaries two months.” And while not using it as an excuse for the Cup exit, defender Kiril Kotev suggested: “We have to support our families and these problems reflected in our play.”

For many of us, it is in times of trouble that we turn to our family. The Penevs would appear to be the exception to the rule.

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