By Will Butcher
Aston Villa fans have paid tribute to former captain Stiliyan Petrov, after the Bulgarian officially announced his retirement from football.
The decision to hang up his boots comes after attempting to return to professional football following his battle with Leukaemia, which forced him to put his playing career on hold four years ago.
The Bulgarian had been back in first-team training with the Villans in pre-season but has admitted that he won’t be able to play professionally again.
The 37-year-old won Aston Villa’s Player of the Year on two occasions and went into a coaching role with the club in 2015 for a short spell.
Petrov defied the odds to make a miraculous recovery and made a comeback in Aston Villa’s pre-season friendly against Austrian club Gak 1902.
Here are a selection of tweets from fans, who took to Twitter to express their admiration of the former Celtic midfielder.
— Grant Smith (@grant4749) August 21, 2016
— Birmingham Badgers (@BrummieBadgers) August 21, 2016
All the best @StanPetrov19 one of my few sporting heroes
— Tom Baker (@bakesn) August 21, 2016
— Daylin (@daylin_docherty) August 21, 2016
@Record_Sport Stiliyan Petrov, you are a legend and I hope that horrible disease doesn't come back!
— Liam (@Liamwatp) August 21, 2016
— Free Aks, Conor & Kz (@GhostManOnline) August 21, 2016
@StanPetrov19 one of the greatest captain off Villa, so sad that u didnt get a chance to come back bit know this we love you forever ❤️UTV
— Fredrik Poulsen (@PoulsenDrz) August 21, 2016
Such a shame to see Stiliyan Petrov retire. A true hero! #Villa
— The Fallen Giants (@FallenGiants) August 21, 2016
It would have been a fairytale return for Petrov, who led Villa with the captain’s armband from 2009-2013, before being forced into retirement.
He made over 200 appearances for Villa and led them to a sixth-placed finish in the Premier League in his first season with the captain’s armband.
In other Aston Villa news, this Premier League striker could be about to join the Villans.