Hristo Stoichkov stalks La Liga once more. Colleagues, opponents and referees should prepare to tremble.

Stoichkov's career as Celta Vigo manager began last night in the best possible fashion with a 1-0 home win over Deportivo La Coruna in the Galician derby. Only a second victory in 19 matches for the club, it edged Celta out of the bottom three in their fraught fight for survival within the Spanish top flight.

That instant dose of heroism is just as well. Stoichkov needs to find success in Vigo after a characteristically brutal bit of bridge-burning. His decision to quit as Bulgarian national coach last week and take over at Celta has chipped away another large chunk of Stoichkov's credibility in his homeland. The country's greatest-ever footballer is now mainly regarded as a figure of disrepute by those who used to worship every devastating touch of his left foot.

Stoichkov left Bulgaria without offering any words of explanation but, when presented in Vigo, said he had made his decision to "improve as a coach." Equally, though, the lure of Spain was simply too strong.

It was here that his name became world-renowned as part of Johan Cruyff's legendary "Dream Team" at Barcelona, often working in destructive tandem with Romario. 83 goals in 175 league games over two spells at Camp Nou speaks of Stoichkov's genius. Eleven red cards, including a two-month suspension for stamping on a referee's foot, screeches of the dark side of his character.

At 41, Stoichkov is obviously now older than his mid-1990s playing prime. But is he any wiser? "I will tell you one thing: whether I have black hair or white hair, the mad boy' will live inside me forever," he once said. "It will always be like that."

There will surely be a part of Stoichkov that believes he can use Vigo as a stepping stone to achieve a glorious return to Barcelona. The ambition may seem bold given his rather modest coaching record to date, but then Stoichkov has never been one for self-doubt.

His propensity for voicing his opinion as the sole truth has led to numerous incendiary disputes. His relationship with Cruyff, always volatile, collapsed sufficiently for Stoichkov - ego freshly ballooned from helping Bulgaria to the semi-finals of the World Cup and his subsequent coronation as Ballon D'Or winner - to move from Barcelona to Parma in 1995.

There, he ran into further rancour in an apparent personality clash with Gianfranco Zola that limited his stay to a single season.

In no area, though, was Stoichkov more vocal than when explaining his hatred for Real Madrid. It's one of the reasons why he remains adored by the majority of Camp Nou patrons for more than his wondrous talent.

"I will always hate Madrid," he has said. "There is just something about them that gets up my nose. I would rather the ground opened up and swallowed me than accept a job with them. In fact, I do not like speaking about them because it makes me want to vomit."

No grey areas there, then. It's a great pity that it is not until next season, should Celta survive in La Liga, that Stoichkov will get to charge at Madrid as a coach.

By then, there will be a clearer idea as to whether he can finally channel his aggression into drawing positive performances from his players.

His time in charge of Bulgaria does not generate massive optimism. Stoichkov replaced Plamen Markov after the nation's early exit from Euro 2004 but was unable to engineer qualification for last summer's World Cup in Germany.

He was sent to the stand for insulting the referee in their qualifier against Sweden, but the make-up of Bulgaria's squad suffered more from his temper. When Stiliyan Petrov, the former Celtic player who was national captain, announced last year that he would not play again for his country until Stoichkov was gone, it was the most damaging of three similiar withdrawals.

Petrov, though, exhibited dismal timing when he announced just three weeks ago that he had made up with Stoichkov, only for the coach to abscond to Vigo. Sparks will undoubtedly fly in this industrial town. Who ends up being burned the most is what will fascinate people as Stoichkov gets to work in his singular style.