"It was difficult to cope with when I was young, because everybody inevitably compared me to my dad," Twente goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov told FIFA.com.

The Bulgaria international grew up in the shadow of national legend Borislav Mihaylov, who was capped 102 times, but it clearly did not impede the younger man's progress.

"I took it as a challenge," he explained, much as Spain's Pepe Reina, Dane Kasper Schmeichel and Wojciech Szczesny of Poland all managed to follow in the footsteps of goalkeeping fathers. In Mihaylov's case, however, he had not one but two generations of custodians to live up to.

"I made a name for myself when I arrived in the Netherlands," said the 24-year-old, who gained his grounding in the game at Levski Sofia, where Borislav and grandfather Biser had both played before him. "It was once I moved abroad that I was really able to step out of my father's shadow, by putting in a lot of work and making sacrifices. But it's an honour to share the same name, especially as things are very different today."

I hope to have a son one day. But although we could become three generations of goalkeeper, I'd never force him to do something he didn't want. He'll be free to do whatever he loves.

Nikolay Mihaylov

Mihaylov's career has certainly blossomed since he joined Twente six years ago, the move coming about after his transfer to Liverpool went awry due to a work-permit issue. Still conscious that he is "growing as a man and as a player" at the Dutch club, he did not take long to make the step up from substitute to regular starter, helping Twente claim the Eredivisie title in 2009/10 and the Dutch Cup the following year.

He was also named the Eredivisie's best goalkeeper in 2011 and was voted Bulgarian player of the year the same season, becoming the first keeper to claim that honour since 1986, when a certain Borislav Mihaylov took the crown.

"As a father, I'm very proud of Nikolay," announced Mihaylov Sr at the time, handing over the trophy to his own son. "In football, the most difficult position and the one where you come under the most pressure is the goalkeeper. I'm happy to be able to award this prize to another goalkeeper after a 25-year gap."

An imposing presence at 1.94m tall, Nikolay has not just impressed for Twente either. First called up by his national team in 2006, he has been a prominent contributor to Bulgaria's recent upturn in fortunes as they aim to reach their first major finals since the 1998 FIFA World Cup France™. Indeed, the country's last crop of players to grace the global stage contained none other than Borislav Mihaylov himself.

"My father's generation was rich in great players," said Nikolay, the Sofia native fondly recalling the likes of Hristo Stoichkov, Krassimir Balakov and current Bulgaria coach Luboslav Penev. "Most of them were lucky enough to play in leagues in western Europe.

"They picked up experience over there and achieved better results when they came back to the national team. But there's also talent in my generation right now and, with Luboslav Penev in charge, we have a good team that has every chance of qualifying for the next World Cup in Brazil."

A proud son
The statistics tend to back Mihaylov up, with the Lions remaining unbeaten so far and lying second behind Italy in qualifying Group B ahead of meetings with Malta on Friday and Denmark next Tuesday.

"Lots of things have changed since Mr Penev took over as coach, both in tactical and psychological terms. He's brought us confidence, which is a crucial factor for a young team like ours."

If Bulgaria are beginning to thrive once again, then credit must also go to the local national association – which since 2005 has been presided over by Mihaylov Sr. "Overall, I get the feeling that my dad has contributed a lot to the success of the national team and Bulgaria's popularity on the worldwide football map," explained Nikolay.

"During communism, which is the era he played in, it was very difficult to leave the country before you were 28. Despite that, he had a remarkable career, with my favourite memories being the World Cup matches against Germany and Mexico at USA 1994."

Mihaylov Jr has done a fine job so far of marking out a similarly proud route, though he himself is yet to have a son who could potentially carry the baton in the future.

"I hope to have a son one day," he declared. "But although we could become three generations of goalkeeper, I'd never force him to do something he didn't want. He'll be free to do whatever he loves. Whether that's playing tennis, basketball or keeping goal, I'll help him achieve his target."