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Celtic legend Billy McNeill has died aged 79

McNeill became the first British player to lift the European Cup in Lisbon in 1967.

Billy McNeill: Celtic legend.
Billy McNeill: Celtic legend.

Celtic legend and European Cup-winning captain Billy McNeill has died at the age of 79.

McNeill became the first British man to lift the European Cup after his side famously beat Inter Milan 2-1 in 1967.

In recent years, the Lisbon Lion had battled against dementia and passed away surrounded by his family, including wife Liz and their children, Susan, Paula, Libby, Carol and Martyn, on Monday evening.

Tributes came in from across the football world and even from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

In a statement, his family said: It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our father Billy McNeill.

"He passed away late last night surrounded by his family and loved ones. He suffered from Dementia for a number of years and fought bravely to the end, showing the strength and fortitude he always has done throughout his life.

https://stv.tv/news/west-central/1437228-hail-cesar-european-cup-winning-celtic-captain-s-career/ | default

"We would also like to note our love and appreciation to our mother, Liz, for the care, devotion and love she gave to our father throughout his illness. No-one could have done any more.

"Whilst this is a very sad time for all the family and we know our privacy will be respected, our father always made time for the supporters so please tell his stories, sing his songs and help us celebrate his life."

McNeill captained Celtic - where he spent his entire playing career - to an incredible trophy haul, banking nine league titles and 13 domestic cups.

He was twice appointed manager, lifting four more championships and four cups, and also took charge at Clyde, Aberdeen, Manchester City and Aston Villa.

McNeill (second from right) and the other Lisbon Lions.
McNeill (second from right) and the other Lisbon Lions. SNS

A statue of McNeill - voted the club's greatest ever captain - lifting the European Cup was erected outside Celtic Park in 2015.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon said McNeill had "the gratitude, admiration and love of every Celtic supporter".

He said: "When you think of Celtic and our incredible history, Billy McNeill is always one of the first names that comes to mind. He was our greatest ever captain and one of our greatest ever players, and along with his team-mates, achieved historic things for Celtic in the 1960s and '70s.

"I love Billy's statue, which is the first thing you see whenever you walk up The Celtic Way. It's the perfect image of him, holding aloft the European Cup, and it will remind future generations of supporters of what a great Celtic man he was.

A statue was erected in Billy McNeill's honour in 2015.
A statue was erected in Billy McNeill's honour in 2015. SNS

"As a Celtic supporter, to get the chance to play for the club, captain the team and finally to become manager is something that dreams are made of.

"The fact that I've achieved all three is something that I really appreciate, and the fact that I'm following in the footsteps of a legend like Billy McNeill makes me truly lucky

Chief executive Peter Lawwell said a "great Celtic man" had been lost.

He said: "Billy McNeill was our greatest-ever captain and one of the finest players ever to wear the famous green and white Hoops. His record as a player is extraordinary.

"It has also been one of the great privileges of my life that, over the years, I got to meet and know Billy, not just as a great Celt, but also as a great man and someone I was delighted to call a friend.

Neil Lennon: Inspired by Billy McNeil.
Neil Lennon: Inspired by Billy McNeil. SNS

"His presence on a matchday here at Celtic Park, where he would cheer on the team, was always a great opportunity to meet up with him, and it was also an indication that he always was, before everything else, a Celtic supporter, faithful through and through.

"This is the saddest of days for the Celtic family, and also for the wider football world. We mourn Billy McNeill's passing and we send our thoughts and prayers to his family and friends, while we also give thanks for Billy's life and the incredible joy he brought to so many people as a Celtic player, a Celtic manager and a great Celtic man."

Fellow Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld also paid tribute to his former teammate.

He told STV: "It was heartbreaking to see him the way he was. It's a terrible illness.

Billy McNeill collected silverware as a player and manager at Celtic.
Billy McNeill collected silverware as a player and manager at Celtic. ©SNS Group

"He was such a big character. Big Jock (Stein) signed him when he was 17. Whenever he walked in - you could see it. He was a giant.

"He was an ambassador for the club. He always conducted himself in a great manner. He was born to be Celtic captain - the way he conducted himself made him stand out from the rest."

Rangers legend John Greig - voted his own club's greatest ever player - paid tribute to his close friend.

He told STV: "Billy's not been well, but it's still a shock. When you think of Billy McNeill you think of that towering six foot-plus figure who captained Celtic to their greatest ever triumph.

Bily McNeill and John Greig pay their respects at an Ibrox Disaster memorial in 2011.
Bily McNeill and John Greig pay their respects at an Ibrox Disaster memorial in 2011. SNS

"I've been friends with Billy for a long, long time. As Old Firm captains, we've done a lot together in the west of Scotland.

"My heart goes out to Liz and Billy's family. It's a very, very sad day."

Sturgeon said: "Very to hear of the passing of Billy McNeill, a giant of Scottish football. 

"The tributes from across the game today speak volumes about the affection in which he was held."

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