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Petrov steps back from Bulgaria

Bulgaria captain and playmaker Stilian Petrov has made the shock "final decision" to retire from international football at the premature age of 27.

Bulgaria captain Stilian Petrov has made the shock "final decision" to retire from international football at the age of 27.

'Final decision'
The Aston Villa FC midfielder announced his move after Bulgaria's 1-0 UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying win in Luxembourg on Wednesday night. "This is my final decision and I will make an official statement on Saturday," said the 68-time international.

Second thoughts
Bulgaria coach Hristo Stoichkov is adamant the player's decision is not final, however, saying: "Stilian is the captain of the team and will remain so as long as I am in charge. When I was a player, I also retired from international football and then came back. I will speak with him."

Mihailov shocked
Bulgarian Football Union president Borislav Mihailov shares Stoichkov's surprise at the announcement, saying: "I hope this is a heat-of-the-moment thing but we must wait and see his motives behind the decision. Whatever his final decision is, we will respect it."

Leading role
Petrov made his national-team debut in 1998 and has scored seven goals for Bulgaria since. The former PFC CSKA Sofia and Celtic FC playmaker took over as captain in April 2003 following Krassimir Balakov's retirement, taking a leading role as his country reached the UEFA EURO 2004™ finals.