Stiliyan Petrov
Petrov says he is ready for a return to football.Getty

Former Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov has vowed to return to football next season – and wants to rejoin his former club in the Championship.

Petrov, 36, was forced to retire from the game in 2013 after he was diagnosed with leukaemia. But following three years of treatment and recovery, the former Bulgaria international has already starting training for a comeback and believes he can help his former side make an instant return to the Premier League.

"I have decided to start trying to play football again at a higher level again," Petrov told the Birmingham Mail.

"I am very excited. People will be asking a lot of questions, and will have a lot of doubts. I always believe that if you work hard, you will get fitter.

"My fitness is getting close to when I retired, so let's see where we go. Aston Villa remains my priority."

Former Bulgaria international Petrov is one of the most popular players in Villa's recent history, making 186 appearances for the club between 2006 and 2012, following a seven-year spell in Scotland with Celtic. He replaced Martin Laursen as skipper in 2009, helping the club to a sixth-place finish that season.