Villa captain Petrov diagnosed with acute leukemia

Published Mar. 30, 2012 6:38 p.m. ET

Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov was diagnosed with acute leukemia Friday, the second Premier League player to be stricken by a serious medical condition in two weeks.

The 32-year-old Bulgaria midfielder developed a fever following last Saturday's game against Arsenal and underwent medical tests, Villa said. Hematology experts confirmed the leukemia diagnosis Friday.

''We expect to learn more about Stiliyan's situation in due course and we have moved quickly to support him and his family,'' the club said in a statement.

''Stiliyan is cherished by many and he will get from Villa every ounce of love and support that we have to help bring this to a positive conclusion.''

The news about Petrov came less than two weeks after Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba collapsed from cardiac arrest during an FA Cup match. Muamba is still hospitalized in intensive care but a photograph of him smiling was posted on his Twitter account on Friday.

''It's a terrible shock, especially so soon after what has happened to Fabrice (Muamba),'' Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor said.

Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells. In acute leukemia, the cancer progresses rapidly and requires immediate treatment.


Villa's home game against Chelsea on Saturday is going ahead as scheduled.

''We think it is in the early stages and Stan will get the best medical attention possible,'' Villa manager Alex McLeish said. ''Everybody here is behind Stan and everybody will be pretty shocked by the news.

''I've not spoken to any of the players. I think one or two who were close to him were aware that he was awaiting news of fuller tests. So the players will be gutted but hopefully galvanized to win this game for their captain tomorrow.''

Petrov joined Villa in August 2006 in a transfer from Scottish side Celtic. He signed a new four-year deal with the Birmingham club in 2009.

Petrov's Villa teammate Darren Bent tweeted that Petrov is ''1 of the nicest guys you'll ever meet and a top captain too.''

Petrov made his 100th appearance for Bulgaria last year in a European Championship qualifier against Switzerland. Mihail Iliev, Bulgaria's national team doctor, said Petrov called him earlier on Friday to tell him about the diagnosis.

''I hope that it has been found at an early stage. I wish he can win this difficult match too,'' Iliev said.

Petrov played for CSKA Sofia before moving to Celtic in 1999. He made 228 appearances in a seven-year spell at the Scottish club.

''We are all absolutely devastated to hear this news,'' Celtic manager Neil Lennon said in a statement. ''As a member of the Celtic family, it is important for Stiliyan to know that he has our unequivocal support in battling against this disease.

''Knowing Stiliyan as I do, and the many obstacles he has overcome in his life to get to the peak of his career, he will overcome this one too.''

Taylor said the PFA will give Petrov all its support.

''Whenever I have met him I have been most impressed by him,'' Taylor said. ''He is a great gentleman. We are proud to have him as a PFA member and I just hope that, like Fabrice, he can come through it.''