Carlos Cuellar

Cuellar's Petrov tribute

by Stuart Vose

Defender: 'I am so proud of Stan'

Carlos Cuellar has paid a fulsome tribute to Stiliyan Petrov after the Aston Villa captain announced his retirement from football.

Petrov, 33, has ended his playing career as he battles acute leukaemia, having been diagnosed in March 2012.

The cancer is in remission and the hugely-popular Bulgarian has announced he is setting up a foundation to help sufferers.

Sunderland defender Cuellar played alongside Petrov at Villa Park and says he’s proud of what his former colleague has, and continues to, achieve.

“The news is hard, it is tough, but for me I prefer not to think any more about Stan the player, I think about my friend, my brother and his health,” he said.

“It is bad news that he has had to retire because football is what he loves, but the main thing is to win his personal battle against the cancer.

“I saw him recently and he looked better and well, which made me happy.

“He will be a big miss for football and for Aston Villa. He is a big character who loves jokes and he has been so important.”

Cuellar added: “Stan has been a top player at the top level and shown everyone his quality.

“I am so proud of what he has achieved in football but I am prouder of what he is doing now because the battle is not easy.”

In a statement on Aston Villa’s official website, Petrov talks of his charity work as a “new challenge, one I will face with all the enthusiasm, energy and drive with which I have faced every single challenge.”

And the Bulgarian’s desire to help others comes as no surprise to Cuellar, who added:

“Stan is a big inspiration and a good help for all those who are struggling with the same illness, the same battle in their lives.

“Famous people have more options to help people deal with things. I am so proud of Stan and the way he has approached and battled his illness.”