“It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my retirement,” he said on Villa’s website.

The Bulgarian was diagnosed with the cancer of the white blood cells in March last year but is now in remission.

“The emotions are overwhelming, but the continued support of family, friends and the great people I have come to know will make it easier for me to move on from the only life I’ve ever known.”

“That I am ready to embrace new challenges will make this process much easier.

Petrov played 218 times for Villa after joining from Celtic and leaves the Birmingham club as captain. He also won 92 caps for his country.

His statement continued: “I remember when I was a young player at CSKA Sofia and the good life was all I was interested in,” he said.

“Celtic came in for me and I moved to Glasgow, to another country, to a new world. I didn’t speak the language and I thought it would never happen for me. I knew nobody.

%TNT Magazine% Stiliyan Petrov teammatesthisone  

“Fortunately, I met people who helped me to turn my life around. I came to know great team-mates who showed me the proper way, the way I had to be if I was going to be a serious professional and compete at a high level.”

“I came to appreciate so much the opportunity to work with that level of professional people because it made me something like them. At Celtic Football Club and at Aston Villa Football Club I was privileged to live a life competing at a high level and playing the game I love, supported by the most passionate fans.”