Billy McNeill is a true Celtic legend: the captain of Jock Stein's side that won nine Scottish League titles in a row, and the first man to lift the European Cup for a British side. He retired as a player in 1975 after 790 appearances for Celtic, in which he played every minute, never having been substituted. He also represented Scotland 29 times.
Billy McNeill, was born on March 2, 1940, in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, Scotland. He signed for Celtic aged 17, and soon established himself at the heart of the central defence. McNeill, nicknamed Cesar, was a popular captain, respected in equal measures by his team-mates and the opposition, with strong leadership to match his prowess on the park.
He attracted attention from Spurs, amongst other clubs, and with success eluding the team, he was reportedly close to leaving. But the arrival of Jock Stein as manager in 1965 changed all that.
Just six weeks after his appointment, McNeill scored the winning goal in the 1965 Scottish Cup final against the match favourites Dunfermline to give Celtic their first trophy since 1957. It was a pivotal moment in the club's history and ushered in a period of unparalleled success. The league title followed in 1965-66, while the club enjoyed a foray into European competition by reaching the Cup Winners Cup semi-finals.
The following year was Celtic's defining moment, however, and the pinnacle of McNeill's career. They won every competition they entered in 1966-67; the Scottish league championship, the Scottish FA Cup, the Scottish League Cup, and even the Glasgow Cup.
Most prestigiously of all, in 1967 they became the first British club to win the European Cup and remain the only Scottish side to have done so.
The final was staged in Lisbon, and Celtic were up against Italian giants, Inter Milan. Inter went ahead, converting a penalty after only seven minutes, but Celtic fought back bravely to level the scores with a Tommy Gemmell goal. With only five minutes remaining, up popped Stevie Chalmers to bag the winner. The team subsequently became known as the Lisbon Lions and, famously, they were all born within a 30-mile radius of Glasgow.
Domestic success continued for Celtic under McNeill's captaincy, and Rangers were unable to get close to them as they proceeded to a record nine league triumphs in a row.
McNeill finally retired in 1975, playing his last game in the Scottish Cup final victory against Airdrie. At the final whistle, he was carried aloft by all his fellow players as the fans chanted his name. It was a fitting end to an amazing career.