Celtic legend Billy McNeill, who captained the Hoops to their famous European Cup win in 1967 in Lisbon, has died at the age of 79.
In a statement through the club’s website, his family announced that he had passed away last night surrounded by loved ones.
He had battled dementia for several years.
The statement added: “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.”
The Lisbon Lion made a record 790 competitive appearances for the Hoops, winning nine league titles, seven Scottish Cups and six League Cups.
McNeill also managed Celtic for nine seasons, from 1978 to 1983 and 1987 to 1991.
He is immortalised outside Celtic Park with a statue of him holding aloft the European Cup in 1967.
Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell said: “Those of us who were lucky enough to see Billy play, particularly during that golden era under Jock Stein, appreciate we were truly privileged to have done so. There were so many gifted players at the club during that time, and their leader on the pitch and in the dressing-room was always Billy McNeill.
“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. 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.
“It is often said that you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but with Billy, as with all the Lisbon Lions, meeting them has always been a wonderful experience. They have remained humble men, regardless of their incredible achievements as Celtic players, embodying everything that is good and positive about Celtic Football Club.
“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.”
Paying tribute on Twitter, former Celtic star Chris Sutton wrote: “Such heartbreaking news. Billy McNeill was an inspirational leader, a legend and a lion. Thoughts go out to his family and the Celtic family.”
John Hartson tweeted: “Sad news the Great Billy Mcneill has passed away.. a true Giant of the game, Leader and inspirational figure.. RIP Big Man thoughts are with the Mcneill family at this sad time”.