Former Celtic favourite Stiliyan Petrov is targeting an emotional comeback at Aston Villa – four years after being diagnosed with cancer.
New Villa manager Roberto Di Matteo has invited the midfielder to join the Championship outfit for pre-season and the former club captain will also join the squad for a training camp in Austria.
Petrov retired from the game after being struck down with acute leukaemia in March 2012 but after making a full recovery, the Bulgarian is now dreaming of returning to the professional game at the age of 36.
After turning out for local Sunday league side Wychall Wanderers Over-35s, Petrov, who won ten domestic titles during his seven years at Celtic, has recently been training with Villa’s Under-21s.
But Petrov is now desperate to give himself the chance of making a fairytale return to senior game.
Speaking in April, Petrov expressed his desire to get back playing professional football.
He said: “I’ve been working close to the idea for a year-and-a-half and I’ve managed to come a long way. I started gradually with slow runs then I moved to five-a-side and then 11-a-side and half a pitch, then Sunday league.
“I’ve been given permission to train with Villa Under-21s for the last four months. We’ve done a couple of tests in the last two weeks and my fitness is getting close to when I retired. I’m really excited and I understand the odds will be against me.
“I’m getting fitter, I’m getting my life back to like what it used to be and it’s a way forward.
“I deal with a lot of people who struggle to get their life back on track after going through treatment like that. It’s hard. The family, the future, it’s dark out there.
“I’ve got it in my mind, even if it doesn’t happen, I’ve tried. It was taken away from me. I’ve worked hard all my life to be a footballer and it was taken away from me. I’ve been given a chance again to do it.”