Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov has announced his retirement from football. The 33-year-old former Bulgarian international has been fighting leukaemia for over a year now, since his diagnosis in March, 2012.
In a statement released by the club, Petrov said:
"I've never been a person for making grand statements. I've only ever got on with my job, while remaining grateful to have great team-mates, great people around me and, most of all, a fantastic family. They have been powerful pillars of support when I have needed them most over the past year."
"It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my retirement from the game. For the life I've lived in football, I will always be incredibly grateful. I wish to thank the fans of Aston Villa and the Villa chairman, Randy Lerner, chief executive Paul Faulkner and manager Paul Lambert, also the fans of Celtic, the Bulgarian fans and fans of football all over the world who have helped me through the past year with their incredible displays of support."
Speaking in early April, Petrov confirmed that his illness was in remission following a full year's treatment. The midfielder, who is a legend at both Villa Park and Celtic, added that he was eager to spend more time with his family and children.
"I have finished all of the high intensity treatment and from now on I'll be on the softer treatment, which is two years on tablets," he said, "It was a very, very long year but now, after all this treatment, I can go back to a normal life."
As part of the fans' show of support for the Bulgarian, Villa Park traditionally bursts into a minute's applause on the 19th minute of every match, to honour the player who wears that number on his jersey.
Petrov's retirement follows that of Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who announced on Wednesday that he would resign from his mangerial position at Old Trafford at the end of the season. The 71-year-old Scot spent 26 trophy-laden years with the Red Devils and will move into a directorial and ambassadorial role with the club from next year.