Billy McNeill, Celtic legend and Lisbon Lions captain, dies aged 79

Celtic legend Billy McNeill has passed away at the age of 79, the Parkhead club have confirmed.

McNeill, who played for Celtic his whole career, was captain of the famous ‘Lisbon Lions’ side who won the European Cup in 1967, an achievement which has since been immortalised in a statue of the victorious skipper holding the trophy aloft outside of Celtic Park.

He was diagnosed with dementia in 2010. His family confirmed the illness in 2017 after he lost the power to speak.

McNeill made the most competitive appearances of any Celtic player in history, appearing 790 times for the Hoops and winning nine league titles, seven Scottish Cups, six League Cups and the 1967 European Cup.

Billy McNeill in 1967. Picture: SNS

After retiring he went into management, including two stints with the Parkhead side, most notably leading them to the league and cup double in the club’s centenary season of 1987-88.

He also had spells with Clyde, Aberdeen, Manchester City and Aston Villa. He finished his managerial career with a brief spell as the caretaker boss at Hibs in 1998.

Celtic posted on their official Twitter account: “The #CelticFC Family is mourning the death of Billy McNeill, the club’s greatest ever captain and one of the finest men to have played and managed the Hoops, who has passed away at the age of 79. Rest in peace, Cesar. You’ll Never Walk Alone.“

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.

Billy McNeill pictured in 2006. Picture: SNS

“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.”

Celtic chief Peter Lawwell added: “We have lost a great Celtic man with the passing of Billy McNeill, and I would first of all like to pass on my condolences on behalf of the club to Billy’s wife, Liz, their children, Susan, Paula, Libby, Carol and Martyn, and their grandchildren at this very sad time. Their loss is a deep and profound one, and I know that everyone, regardless of their football allegiance, will be sending their thoughts and prayers to Billy’s family.

“I also want to send my condolences to his football brothers, in particular, the Lisbon Lions, with whom he shared so many extraordinary triumphs with Celtic, but also to all the countless friends he made in football, people such as Mike Jackson, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship after the two of them were team-mates here in the late 1950s and early ‘60s.

“Billy McNeill was our greatest ever captain and one of the finest players ever to wear the famous green and white Hoops.”

Billy McNeill holds the European Cup aloft in 1967. Picture: AP
A statue of Billy McNeill outside Celtic Park. Picture: John Devlin