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Celtic great McNeill is to receive Bilbao honour


Billy McNeill
Billy McNeill

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic's European Cup-winning captain Billy McNeill is to receive a prestigious award from Spanish club Athletic Bilbao in tribute to his "faithful service" to the Hoops.

Athletic's 'One-Club Man Award' was set up four years ago with the aim of honouring players whose career with one team represents the values of "commitment, loyalty, responsibility, sportsmanship and respect", which embody the Basque side's own identity.

Now 79, McNeill - nicknamed 'Cesar' by his team-mates - spent his entire career with the Hoops, with his crowning achievement coming in 1967 as he led Jock Stein's 'Lisbon Lions' to victory over Inter Milan in the final of the European Cup.

As well as becoming the first British player to lift the trophy, his 790 competitive appearances for Celtic between 1957 and 1975 remains a club record.

He captained the Hoops to nine league titles in a row, claiming seven Scottish Cups and six League Cups, while also contributing 34 goals.

McNeill, whose family confirmed in 2017 that he had been diagnosed with dementia, would later return to Celtic for two successful spells as manager, while the club marked his special place in their history when in 2015 they unveiled a statue of his likeness holding the European Cup aloft.

Jose Angel Iribar, a former Athletic goalkeeper and their own record appearance holder, will lead a delegation from Bilbao to present McNeill with his award.

Celtic chairman Ian Bankier said: "This award is a fantastic recognition for Billy and recognises the phenomenal contribution he made to Celtic over so many years."

Belfast Telegraph


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