Radostin Kishishev, Stiliyan Petrov and Bontcho Guentchev – when it comes to the Premier League, Bulgaria has a history for producing quality midfielders who thrive in the English top-flight and Ivaylo Chochev may be the next in line.
Previously with CSKA Sofia in his homeland, the 22-year-old was signed by newly-promoted Palermo last summer in a deal worth £1.76m.
It’s proven to be money well spent, with the Sicilians benefiting from the Bulgarian’s tough-tackling and excellent aerial ability throughout a Serie A campaign that has seen the Rosanero sit comfortably in mid-table for much of the season.
A quick and accurate passer who is capable of leading counter-attacks at speed, Chochev has also added goals to his game in recent weeks, having scored three in his last three outings for Palermo.
Still a relative newcomer to Italian life, the Bulgarian midfield battler could soon be attracting the kind of admiring glances that have seen teammates like Achraf Lazaar and, most notably, Paulo Dybala linked with moves to the Premier League.
Newcastle United, for one, would be wise to take a closer look at Chochev.
With Cheick Tiote likely to depart St James’ Park this summer and Moussa Sissoko consistently linked with moves way from the Toon, the Bulgarian could prove a cut-price replacement for either player.
Hard-working and dogged, Chochev also has the potential to provide some additional goal threat from the midfield.
His age also means he could be precisely the kind of signing that would appeal to club owner Mike Ashley, with the Magpies able to sell the midfielder on for a potential profit.
In a season where the Toon have been criticised for lacking passion and determination on the pitch, the 22-year-old’s work rate and attitude would prove a welcome tonic to the clubs’ current toils.
Still in danger of relegation from the Premier League, should Newcastle survive for another year then signings like Chochev could help the club return to the comfort of mid-table and perhaps even beyond that.
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