Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov has announced his retirement from football due to his ongoing battle with leukaemia.
The 33-year-old was diagnosed with the disease in March 2012 and immediately put his career on hold in order to undergo treatment.
And, despite revealing that he was in remission in August, the Bulgarian has elected to hang up his boots having made 573 appearances since starting out in 1996.
“I’ve never been a person for making grand statements,” a letter on the club’s official website read. “I’ve only ever got on with my job, while remaining grateful to have great team-mates, great people around me and, most of all, a fantastic family.
“They have been powerful pillars of support when I have needed them most over the past year. To my wife, Paulina, and my sons, Kristiyan and Stiliyan, I love you very much and I will always for your constant love and support.
“Also to my mum and dad, my brother and Paulina’s mum and the people who have been closest to me throughout this time – you know who you are and I love you all. Each and every day I thank God for giving me the opportunity to still be with my family.
“Football has been the other great love of my life, so it is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my retirement from the game.
“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.”
Petrov also revealed that he will now focus his efforts on raising money for those suffering from leukaemia, insisting he felt “lucky” to have survived his battle with the disease.
The former Bulgaria international began his career at CSKA Sofia before moving to the UK with Scottish Premier League outfit Celtic.
His switch to Villa came after seven successful seasons at Parkhead, as he opted to join former boss Martin O’Neill at the Midlands club.
Petrov remains Bulgaria’s most-capped player, having earned 106 international caps over a 15-year period.