Billy McNeill diagnosed with dementia

The former Celtic captain led the famous Lisbon Lions side

BY Daniel Kelly 09:37 Sunday 26 February 2017, 9:37 26 Feb 2017

Picture by Danny Lawson PA Archive/PA Images

Billy McNeill, the captain of Celtic's Lisbon Lions team that won the 1967 European Cup, has been diagnosed with dementia.

The 76-year-old, who spent all of his playing career at Celtic, played 29 times for Scotland. He remains one of Celtic's most famous players in the 129-year history of the club.

McNeill played almost 800 times for the club, and remains Celtic's all-time appearance holder. Nine Scottish Leagues and seven Scottish Cups added to the European Cup in a outstanding playing career.

Speaking to the Daily Record, McNeill's wife Liz said he was diagnosed with the disease seven years ago and is not able to speak any more.

"It is sad. We don’t know what he can remember because he can’t communicate. We don’t know if he can remember what he did. Sometimes you will see something, a smile or a look but then it goes."

His family have used the upcoming 50th anniversary of McNeill's finest day as a footballer to reveal his predicament. In Lisbon, the defender became the first British footballer to lift the European Cup.

Although only going public with his diagnosis now, Liz added that the club and former players have been excellent in helping McNeill cope with his illness.

"Celtic have been great as have the supporters and some of the old friends and players come and take him out. People like Pat Bonner, Andy Walker, Frank MacAvennie and Murdo McLeod come over."

"The chief executive, Peter Lawwell, has been great and Billy seems to enjoy being there [at Celtic Park] – although we never stay long now."

McNeill will always remain a legend to Celtic's fans, despite the diagnosis. The 76-year-old's situation adds to a recent trend of retired footballers being diagnosed with the disease. 

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