O'Neil urges Petrov not to quit Bulgaria

Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill is hoping to persuade midfielder Stiliyan Petrov to reconsider his decision to quit international football with Bulgaria.

Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill is hoping to persuade midfielder Stiliyan Petrov to reconsider his decision to quit international football with Bulgaria.

Petrov has vowed never to play for his country again while Hristo Stoichkov is in charge of the national side.

However, O’Neill believes it would be “sad” if Petrov did not reverse his decision given the fact he is only 27 and coming into his prime.

The Irishman, who brought the best out of Petrov at Celtic, said: “I’ve known Stiliyan a long time and sometimes he will chew over something and then maybe the next day will have come up with something completely different.

“He looks as if he has made his mind up. When he becomes really adamant about something, that’s it. Deep down I’m saddened by it.

“I don’t know the specific details of his decision but I think he’ll be a loss to Bulgarian football because he is just coming to the top of his game.

“He will peak in the next couple of seasons. There is plenty to come from him at club and international level and it would be a shame if he does decide not to play for Bulgaria again.

“I’ve had a brief chat to him about it and he has got some months ahead before the next round of European Championship qualifiers to maybe change his mind.”

O’Neill does not believe comparisons should be drawn between Petrov and Paul Scholes who retired from playing for England after Euro 2004 to concentrate on his career with Manchester United.

He said: “Paul Scholes had proved himself to be a world-class footballer who felt he could no longer contribute to the same degree as he had been doing for England.

“Stiliyan is developing into that but has got plenty to do yet. I think when he eventually calls time on his career he will have proved himself but, like I said, he is still to peak which I think he will do in the next couple of seasons.”

O’Neill is playing down Villa’s fine start to the season and they are the only remaining unbeaten side in the Premiership.

He said: “There is no success yet. I am pleased – but we have played eight games. Of course, I am delighted with the start and the attitude of the players.

“Maybe it is just me. Maybe it is just my old defence mechanism kicking in because I’ve been around the block a few times and I know what happens and things can soon change. The honeymoon period can soon be over.

“I didn’t envisage we’d still be unbeaten to be honest in mid October but the length of time is false because we have had two international breaks. Nevertheless I am delighted. I’ve been thrilled with the team.”

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