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4 years after being diagnosed with leukaemia, Stiliyan Petrov makes emotional Villa return

The midfielder featured against Gak 1902 this evening.

Aston Villa's Stiliyan Petrov salutes the fans after announcing his retirement from football in 2013.
Aston Villa's Stiliyan Petrov salutes the fans after announcing his retirement from football in 2013.
Image: Martin Rickett

Updated at 19.25

STILIYAN PETROV’S REMARKABLE comeback continues as he featured for Aston Villa in their 8-0 pre-season friendly win over Austrian side Gak 1902 this evening.

Manager Roberto Di Matteo has indicated Petrov would play tonight, as he attempts to make a comeback to professional football.

It is an incredible turnaround for the Bulgarian midfielder. After being diagnosed with acute leukaemia in March 2012, he suspended his playing career before officially confirming his retirement in May 2013.

However, following successful treatment, the 37-year-old has recovered to the extent that he was invited to train pre-season with Aston Villa, having been a key player for the club — making almost 200 competitive appearances in their midfield — before stepping away from the game.

After helping his local Sunday league side Wychall Wanderers secure the Central Warwickshire Over-35s Premier Division One Cup last year, Petrov made his return to Villa on a non-contract basis, with the club not ruling out the possibility of offering the player a more permanent place in the squad.

In the years since the diagnosis, the star also set up the Stilyan Petrov Foundation, which raises money for leukaemia sufferers.

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Paul Fennessy

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