Celtic great to inspire world class defender to Champions League glory

Liverpool face Tottenham in the Champions League Final on Saturday night, with both teams having a link or two back to Celtic, Celtic fans will be looking on with some interest.

Just under four years ago, Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk quit Celtic for Southampton for a reported £13 million transfer fee. Now he is playing in his SECOND Champions League final in two seasons.

And with van Dijk looking to put the ghosts of last season’s final defeat to bed, the Dutch defender has admitted that he is hoping to be inspired by the memory of the late Billy McNeill as he tries to emulate the Celtic legend by lifting Europe’s premier club cup competition tonight.

The Celtic legend died last month after a long battle with dementia and Van Dijk was stunned and saddened by his loss.

Speaking about McNeill, Van Dijk said: “I met Billy a couple of times and had chats with him. When I heard that he passed away, I was shocked and sad. Myself and Robbo [Andy Robertson] spoke about it at the time and we both felt the same way.

“Billy was the famous Celtic No.5. Everyone who has ever walked into the club has seen that picture of him holding the trophy. Also, there is the wonderful statue at Celtic Park and he was an amazing man for the club.

“Obviously, I didn’t see him play, but I saw all the clips of him on social media and it was sad he passed away.

“If they are going to retire the No.5 shirt, I totally understand why that would happen. It is great that Celtic would think of doing that and I am honoured I have worn it after Billy.

“He was such a huge name in Scotland and was such a huge player for Celtic. He is definitely a legend forever.”

Along with van Dijk, Celtic fans will also look towards the Spurs team to see if Victor Wanyama makes the match day squad six years after he left Celtic Park for Southampton - just like Van Dijk. Former Celtic youth - released by Chris McCart for being too small at under-15 level - will also play in tonight’s European showpiece for the Merseyside club.