By Harry Sykes

Stiliyan Petrov has revealed extraordinary plans to make an Aston Villa comeback next season.

The 36-year-old former midfielder, whose career was cut short in 2012 as he battled acute leukaemia, is in training to come out of retirement and is planning on being in contention for the 2016/17 campaign.

Petrov wants to make the return to professional football and has set his sights on playing for ex-club Villa.

The Bulgarian was forced to announce his retirement in May 2013 14 months after the former Villa captain had made his last appearance for the Midlands giants.

But Petrov, who turns 37 in July, said he has been embarking on a secret fitness plan for 18 months.

“I have decided to start trying to play football again at a higher level again,” Petrov told the Birmingham Mail on Tuesday as he promoted his golf day at The Belfry which takes place on May 8 to help raise funds for The Stiliyan Petrov Foundation.

“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.”

Petrov spent seven years as a player at Villa after joining the club from Celtic in 2006 for a fee of around £6.5million when he became the first signing of former manager Martin O’Neill.

He has been on the Villa coaching staff since 2015, initially in the club’s academy.