Savo Milosevic said Aston Villa belong in the "top six or seven clubs in England" as the former striker hailed the club's return to the Premier League.
After three seasons in the second tier, Villa finally secured promotion to the Premier League via the Championship play-offs in May.
Milosevic became a fan favourite during his time at Villa Park, where he won the EFL Cup in his first season after arriving for a then-club record fee of £3.5million from boyhood club Partizan Belgrade in 1995.
Now head coach of Partizan, Milosevic has continued to follow Villa and the 45-year-old great – who is the highest-scoring Serbian in Premier League history with his 29 goals for the Villans – revelled in the team's comeback.
Milosevic told Omnisport: "Such great news. I have to tell you, I was very sad in the past three years watching Villa playing in the Championship.
"Villa are an enormous club with great tradition, they belong in the Premier League. Not just the Premier League but the top six or seven clubs in England."
Dean Smith and Villa have wasted no time preparing for their Premier League return, splashing the cash in the transfer market.
Wesley, Tyrone Mings, Matt Targett, Jota, Bjorn Engels, Ezri Konsa, Kortney Hause and Anwar El Ghazi have either arrived or signed permanent deals in the West Midlands.
"Watching them play in the Championship, it was tough. I'm so happy now. I'm watching pre-season now and they are signing players," said Milosevic, who formed a lethal combination with Dwight Yorke at Villa and scored the opening goal in the club's 3-0 EFL Cup final win over Leeds United.
"It won't be easy back in the Premier League, it will be tough to survive because it's so difficult with many strong teams.
"Even those who are struggling, they are not easy to beat. They have to be careful but it's great to be back in the Premier League. It's where they belong."
Villa will open their Premier League campaign with a trip to Champions League finalists Tottenham on August 10.