Stiliyan Petrov hopes to return to action with Aston Villa next season

The Bulgarian retired in 2013 after being diagnosed with Leukaemia

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Picture by: Martin Rickett / PA Archive/Press Association Images

Former Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov is back in training and hopes to return to playing professional football next season.

The 36-year-old retired in 2013, when playing for Aston Villa after being diagnosed with Leukaemia. The Bulgarian rejoined the club last year as a coach.

Petrov is best remembered for his spells with Villa and in Scotland with Celtic. He was part of Martin O'Neill's Celtic side that reached the UEFA Cup final in 2003, and won four Scottish titles with the Glasgow side.

Petrov with Villa in 2010 ©INPHO/James Crombie

The former Bulgaria captain told the Birmingham Mail that he has been in training for the past 18 months with a hope to returning to professional action.

"I have decided to start trying to play football again at a higher level again. I am very excited. People will be asking a lot of questions, and will have a lot of doubts."

Petrov also claimed his fitness level is near that of when he retired in 2013. He still lives in the Birmingham area and plays for a Sunday league team to scratch the competitive itch.

Aston Villa will begin next season in The Championship after relegation from the Premier League. They are on course to be one of the worst teams in the Premier League era after only earning 16 points form their first 35 games.