Celtic manager Neil Lennon and club captain Scott Brown have paid tribute to Billy McNeill. 

The former captain passed away late yesterday evening surrounded by his family and friends following a prolonged battle with dementia.

Neil Lennon said: “This is such sad news and I want to send thoughts and prayers to Liz and all the family from myself and all the backroom staff here at the club.

READ MORE: Celtic legend Billy McNeill dies aged 79 

"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.

"I love Billy’s statue, which is the first thing you see whenever you walk up The Celtic Way. It’s the perfect image of him, holding aloft the European Cup, and it will remind future generations of supporters of what a great Celtic man he was.

"As a Celtic supporter, to get the chance to play for the club, captain the team and finally to become manager is something that dreams are made of. The fact that I’ve achieved all three is something that I really appreciate, and the fact that I’m following in the footsteps of a legend like Billy McNeill makes me truly lucky.

"Billy was a brilliant Celtic player, and a great manager, and as a player and a fan myself, it was always a great experience whenever I would meet him and chat to him. He was so positive and supportive and always wanted all of us to do well because, if we did, it meant that Celtic were doing well and, for Billy, that was everything.

"This was his club, and he devoted his professional life to Celtic. In turn, he received the gratitude, admiration and love of every Celtic supporter.

"This is more than a club, with Celtic known throughout the world, and it is because of people like Billy McNeill that this is the case. He was a giant of the game, a true Celtic legend and someone that we will all miss.”

READ MORE: Tributes paid to Celtic legend Billy McNeill 

Captain Scott Brown said: “Wearing the captain’s armband at Celtic is a great honour and privilege and it’s something that I’ve been lucky enough to have done over the past few years. However, there will only be one greatest ever Celtic captain and that is Billy McNeill.

"All of the players at the club are deeply saddened to hear of Billy’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

"Billy set the benchmark as a Celtic player and captain, and that’s something everyone who pulls on the jersey has to aspire to. He won every honour in the game with Celtic including, of course, the European Cup, and I can only imagine how he must have felt when he lifted that trophy in Lisbon back in 1967.

"He and his team-mates created history with their success, both in Scotland and in Europe, and every successive Celtic team since then have always strived to emulate that. It is only right that at a massive club like Celtic we have the highest targets to try and achieve, and those were set by Billy McNeill and that team who achieved such incredible things.

"It was also great to see Billy here on a matchday when he would come to Celtic Park to cheer on the team, and it was always good to know that, even after they retired, legends such as Billy and his team-mates from that era, were still cheering on the team as supporters.

READ MORE: Peter Lawwell pays tribute to 'hero and friend' Billy McNeill 

"John Clark has always been an integral part of things here at the club, and I know this will be a tough time for him and his fellow Lisbon Lions. You can see that the bond they had as players has remained throughout the rest of their lives, and our thoughts are with them too.

"I also know that Celtic supporters throughout the world will be devastated at this news. Billy McNeill has been a hero to every fan, and it is fitting that his statue is the first thing that greets us all at the start of The Celtic Way. He will always be remembered as a true Celtic legend and one of our greatest ever players.”