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Hail Cesar: Colossal captain immortalised in Celtic's history

Billy McNeill, the first Briton to lift the European Cup, has died at the age of 79.

McNeill: A statue of the former captain has been erected at Celtic Park.
McNeill: A statue of the former captain has been erected at Celtic Park. STV

Celtic's most successful captain has passed away after a battle with dementia.

Billy McNeill led the famous Lisbon Lions to victory in the 1967 European Cup and nine successive league titles before going on to manage the club on two occasions.

Known as Cesar - after the actor Cesar Romero, who in Oceans 11 drove the same car as McNeill - he played more times for Celtic than any other player in the club's history.

During his 18-year spell as a player at Celtic Park, he took to the field more than 800 times and lifted 24 trophies.

https://stv.tv/news/west-central/1437227-celtic-legend-billy-mcneill-has-died-aged-79/ | default

The Bellshill-born defender was also capped 29 times for Scotland, making his debut in a 9-3 defeat to England in 1961.

After retiring as a player in 1975, McNeill returned to manage the club in 1978, winning three league titles, two Scottish Cups and a League Cup during his first spell.

He left to join Manchester City in 1983 and gained promotion to the English top-flight in his first season, but returned to Celtic four years later to lead the club to a league and cup double in their centenary year.

McNeill also spent a year in charge of Aberdeen before taking the Celtic job in 1978.

Legends: McNeill being inducted into the hall of fame with team mate Tommy Gemmell.
Legends: McNeill being inducted into the hall of fame with team mate Tommy Gemmell. SNS

During his single season at Pittodrie, they finished second in the league and he was credited with laying the ground work for his replacement Alex Ferguson to guide the north-east club to their most successful ever period.

After leaving Celtic for a second time in 1991 he never returned to management, other than a short spell as mentor to Hibs boss Jim Duffy in 1998.

Named as Glasgow's Sportsman of the Millennium in 1999, he has also been inducted into both the Scottish Sports and Scottish Football Hall of Fame and became an MBE in 1975.

In 2002, McNeill was named as Celtic's greatest ever captain and voted into their all-time best 11 by the club's fans. He was appointed as club ambassador in 2009.

Then in December 2015 a bronze statue depicting the moment he lifted the European Cup was erected outside Celtic Park.

Just last week, he was recognised by Spanish club Athletic Bilbao for his achievements and loyalty to Celtic.

Cesar: McNeill on his return to scene of European triumph.
Cesar: McNeill on his return to scene of European triumph. SNSGroup

Records and achievements

  • In 1967 he became the first ever British player to lift the European Cup.
  • With 822 appearances for Celtic, he has played more games for the club than any other player in history.
  • Captain of the first club to win five major honours in one season.
  • Captained the first club in Europe in win the treble of European Cup, League and domestic cup.
  • First club captain to lift nine consecutive league titles. 
  • Never substituted in 822 Celtic appearances.
  • Capped 29 times for Scotland.
  • Won 31 major honours during his time as player and manager of Celtic.
  • Voted Celtic's greatest-ever captain.
  • Honoured with an MBE.
  • Inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame.
  • McNeill is in the Scottish Football Hall of Fame.
  • He was named Glasgow's Sportsman of the Millennium. 

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