Stiliyan Petrov celebrates after scoring the second goal for Aston Villa
The two midfielders are hugely popular players at their former clubs, and they wished each other a happy birthday on Twitter in a gesture that was all the more endearing given that both men are cancer survivors.
@elgalgojonas happy bday buddy. Hope u r having a great day— Stiliyan Petrov (@StanPetrov19) July 5, 2016
@StanPetrov19 thank you, and the same for you. Hope you enjoy this day with family and friends. Best wishes— Jonas Gutierrez (@elgalgojonas) July 5, 2016
With cancer in its various forms still a deadly disease for many, it is heart warming to see two survivors recognising each other having beaten their illnesses, when perhaps at one point it would have been easy to imagine that they would struggle to reach many more birthdays.
Unsurprisingly, fans and former clubs were also quick to congratulate the duo.
NUFC Media (@NUFCMedia) July 5, 2016
Gutierrez was unceremoniously released by the Magpies after helping them stay in the Premier League on the last day of the 2014-15 season. The Argentine, who was treated for and recovered from testicular cancer that he first identified in 2013, played for a year back in Spain with Deportivo La Coruna last season, but is currently unattached.
Petrov's story saw him step away from football for an altogether longer period, after being diagnosed with acute leukaemia in 2012. As he battled the debilitating illness and the treatment, the former Celtic favourite retired from playing in 2013.
However, after beating the leukaemia, the Bulgarian returned to Villa Park in a coaching capacity last year, and to enormous credit, has rejoined the Villa first team this summer with the intention of returning to professional football in the coming campaign.
If the Villa team need any example of the value of determination and will power in the face of adversity, they need look no further than Petrov, who could well inspire them to a quick return to the Premier League.