CELTIC legend Billy McNeill has died at the age of 79.

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

McNeill - nicknamed Cesar by his team-mates - captained Celtic's European Cup-winning side in 1967 and was voted the club's greatest-ever captain by supporters.

McNeill became the first British player to lift the European Cup after captaining Jock Stein's famous Lisbon Lions side to a 2-1 victory over Inter Milan.

READ MORE: Athletic Bilbao honour Celtic’s ‘one-club man’ Billy McNeill

McNeill's 790 competitive appearances for Celtic is a club record, with the defender featuring for the Parkhead club between 1957 and 1975.

Remarkably, McNeill played every minute of every game he played in and was never substituted for the club.

The former Celtic defender later returned to the club for two seperate spells as manager, and a statue of McNeill was erected outside Celtic Park in 2015.

McNeill was recently awarded Athletic Bilbao's prestigious 'One Club Man Award' for his dedicated service to Celtic, whose previous recipients include AC Milan's Paolo Maldini, Barcelona defender Carles Puyol and and Bayern Munich's Sepp Maier.

HeraldScotland:

READ MORE: Neil Lennon calls on Celtic players to 'galvanise' themselves for Saturday

Speaking after the award announcement was made, Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell said: "I have had the genuine honour and privilege of knowing Billy for so many years now and he is someone who always set the highest of examples with his values of family, respect and humility.

"He is rightly revered as a true Celtic great and he will always be one of our favourite sons – a special player and a very special man.

"Billy will always be one of European football’s major figures. He has given such a huge part of his life to Celtic and for that, we will forever be grateful and we forever hold him in such high esteem.”

READ MORE: Jake Hastie's former coach pinpoints the two things that marked him out for success ahead of Rangers move

McNeill's family released the following statement:

"It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our father Billy McNeill. He passed away late last night (Monday, April 22) surrounded by his family and loved ones. He suffered from Dementia for a number of years and fought bravely to the end, showing the strength and fortitude he always has done throughout his life.

"We would also like to note our love and appreciation to our mother, Liz, for the care, devotion and love she gave to our father throughout his illness. No one could have done any more.

"Whilst this is a very sad time for all the family and we know our privacy will be respected, our father always made time for the supporters so please tell his stories, sing his songs and help us celebrate his life."

More to follow.