Lisbon Lions captain Billy McNeill dies aged 79

Former Celtic captain Billy McNeill has died at the age of 79, his family have announced.

McNeill, who played for Celtic his whole career, was captain of the famous ‘Lisbon Lions’ side who won the European Cup in 1967 and he also went on to manage the club.

A statement from his children on the Celtic website read: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our father Billy McNeill.

“He passed away late last night (Monday, April 22) 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.”

McNeill joined Celtic in 1957 from junior side Blantyre Victoria and holds the club record for most appearances with 790 over 18 seasons. The defender also won 29 caps for Scotland.

He had two spells as Celtic manager spanning nearly 10 years in total and won 31 trophies across his long association with the club.

A view of the Billy McNeill statue before a Champions League game against Barcelona (Andrew Milligan/PA)
A view of the Billy McNeill statue before a Champions League game against Barcelona (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The statement continued: “While 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 was the captain of Jock Stein's all-conquering Celtic side of the late 1960s and early 70s, winning nine league titles in a row, seven Scottish Cups and six League Cups.

He retired in 1975 after winning his final trophy, the Scottish Cup, and retained a strong association with the club throughout the rest of his life, becoming an ambassador in 2009.

Six years later a statue of McNeill holding aloft the European Cup was erected outside Celtic Park.

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell paid tribute on the club website, saying: "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."

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- Press Association

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