Aston Villa sign £8million Petrov from Celtic

August 30, 2006

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill has finally won the battle to sign Celtic midfielder Stilian Petrov who has joined the midlands club in an £8million deal.

The Bulgarian international has moved to Villa Park for an initial £6.5million but the add-ons could see the eventual figure rise by a further £1.5million.

It has been common knowledge that former Celtic boss O'Neill made Petrov his number one target after replacing David O'Leary in the hotseat nearly four weeks ago although he has been reluctant to make any public comment.

Portsmouth were also interested in signing Petrov but their manager Harry Redknapp conceded on Monday that Villa had won the race for his signature.

O'Neill was desperate to bolster his squad with a quality signing before the transfer window closes at midnight on Thursday and Petrov fits the bill.

O'Neill told Villa's website: 'I've known him for quite some time and I think he is athletic, young and can also score some goals for us.

'I think his best years are ahead of him, at 27 years old. He's the right age but he's also got plenty of experience behind him.

'He's got that winning mentality from his years at Celtic but I think he had that anyway.'

Celtic have dug their heels in for the past few weeks and manager Gordon Strachan said recently the 27-year-old would not be allowed to leave.

But Petrov had made it clear he wanted to try his luck south of the border and he was not included in the Celtic squad for the game with Hibernian on Saturday. He had fours year remaining on his contract with the Scottish champions but put in a transfer request at the end of last season.

He was a key figure under O'Neill during his five years in charge at Celtic who won three Premier League titles and reached the UEFA Cup final.

Petrov is currently away on European Championship duty with his country, preparing for matches against Romania and Slovenia, but his agent Tony McGill has been tying up the loose ends such as personal terms over the past 48 hours.

Petrov should be in line to make his Villa debut against West Ham at Upton Park on September 10.

His arrival will provide competition in midfield for Gavin McCann and Steven Davis who have impressed during Villa's fine start to the Premiership campaign.

Petrov joined Celtic from CSKA Sofia for £3million seven years ago and endured a testing first season before the arrival of O'Neill in the summer of 2000 from Leicester saw an upturn in his fortunes.

He won his first cap for his country in March 1999 against Belgium and was eventually appointed skipper of his country.

He was voted the Scottish Premier League's player of the year in 2001 after helping Celtic to the domestic treble.

O'Neill is also believed to be interested in Barcelona striker Javier Saviola who is out of favour at the Nou Camp.

The 24-year-old is out of contract next summer and Barcelona are keen to off-load the Argentinian international who impressed at the World Cup.

But O'Neill faces competition from the likes of Celta Vigo, Real Zaragoza and Villarreal for Saviola.