Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov, who is continuing his treatment for leukemia, has confirmed his retirement from football.

The 33-year-old former Bulgaria international was diagnosed with acute leukemia in March 2012 which meant he had to suspend his football career to have treatment.

However, Petrov, who is now in remission, has issued a statement on the Villa website to reveal that he is ‘with a heavy heart’ announcing his retirement from the game as he plans to ‘embrace new challenges’ by setting up a foundation to help address issues people are faced with when they are diagnosed with leukemia.

He also thanked the people who treated him, including Professor David Lunch at University College London Hospital and Professor Charlie Craddock, Sandeep Nagra and all of the nurses at University Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

The former CSKA Sofia and Celtic star added in his statement: “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 and with their personal, moving messages.

“I would also like to thank all of the managers I have worked under and all of the team-mates I have played alongside. I loved playing football with all of you and you will always remain in my heart.”

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