Billy McNeill: Celtic legend and European Cup winning captain dies aged 79

    Billy McNeill  with the Champions League trophy during the 2013-14 Champions League group stage draw.

    (CNN)Billy McNeill, the first Briton to lift the European Cup when Celtic won the competition with a team of homegrown players in 1967, has died at the age of 79.

    Nicknamed "Cesar" by the clubs fans, McNeill captained the Celtic team that defeated Inter Milan 2-1 in Lisbon in 1967, the first and only time a Scottish team has won European football's most coveted club prize.
    He appeared 790 times for the Glasgow club, winning nine league titles, seven Scottish cups and six league cups. McNeill also had a successful managerial career during two spells as Celtic boss. He managed Manchester City, Aston Villa and Aberdeen as well, where he was replaced by Alex Ferguson in 1978.
      A statement on Celtic's website Tuesday read: "The Celtic 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."
        "Billy McNeill was a Celtic player, manager and ambassador. First and foremost, however, he was always a Celtic supporter and his love for the club was evident throughout his life.
        "He was a one-club man as a player and, for Billy, that club had to be Celtic. He spent 18 years at the club, joining in 1957 and bowing out in 1975. He made his first-team debut on August 23, 1958 in a 2-0 home win over Clyde in the League Cup, while his final appearance came on May 3, 1975 when he captained Celtic to a 2-1 victory over Airdrie in the Scottish Cup final."
        Current Celtic manager Neil Lennon 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."
        The Billy McNeill Statue outside Celtic Park in Glasgow, Scotland.
        Celtic fan and rock star Rod Stewart tweeted: "Hail Hail Cesar! Farewell my friend, Billy McNeill, and farewell one of the best Celts ever. "
        A statue of McNeill, arms aloft, holding the European Cup greets visitors to Celtic Park. The European Cup winning team, all of whom were born within 30 miles of the club's stadium, became known as the "Lisbon Lions" and is one of only a handful of European teams to win four trophies in one season.
        As well as the continental triumph, McNeill is idolized by Celtic fans for securing a dramatic league and cup double for the club as manager in its 1988 centenary season.
        Billy McNeill after securing the league and cup double in Celtic's 1988 centenary season.
        McNeill had reportedly been suffering from ill health in recent years with his family revealing he had dementia in 2017.
        A statement from the McNeill family on Tuesday acknowledged the struggles of his latter years and said that "he fought bravely to the end, showing the strength and fortitude he always has done throughout his life."
        Just last week, McNeill was awarded Athletic Bilbao's "One Club Man" award for his commitment and loyalty to Celtic throughout his playing career.
        Jim Craig, a former teammate of McNeill and fellow "Lisbon Lion," tweeted: "Heartbroken over the passing of my great friend and captain Billy McNeill."
        Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon called McNeill "a giant of Scottish football."
        Former Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson, who went up against McNeill as a player and a coach, described him as a "truly good man" who will be "a loss to everyone who knew him. Farewell Cesar."
          Comedian and Celtic fan, Frankie Boyle said: I talked to Billy McNeill in his pub a couple of times, and it was quite something to be in the presence of someone who was a very ordinary, gentlemanly kind of character, and simultaneously a kind of mythic figure. Rest in Peace.
          Manchester City, meanwhile, tweeted it was "sad to learn of the passing of Billy McNeill who managed the Club between 1983-86."