For those fortunate enough to see him play for Celtic in the flesh he was known simply as 'The Maestro'.

He went by the name of Paul McStay.

His teammates christened him 'The Hat' because of his unerring ability to always be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat when Celtic needed him most.

He was the grand-nephew of former Celtic team captain and manager Jimmy McStay, so playing for Celtic was already in the family's green and white blood.

McStay was a prodigy and widely tipped youth prospect to go all the way. A member of Celtic Boys Club the teenager burst onto the football scene in incredible style when he hit two goals and was named man of the match as Scotland schoolboys defeated their English counterparts 5-4 at Wembley in front of a live TV audience in June 1980.

The legend of McStay was born. Despite his brothers Willie and Raymond also playing for Celtic it was Paul who always seemed destined for greatness.

He signed for Celtic at the tender age of 17 and made his senior Celtic debut in a 4-0 home Scottish Cup win over Queen of the South on January 21st 1982.

The following week he bagged his first career goal on his league debut when he waltzed through the Aberdeen defence to thrash home the clincher in a 3-1 win at Pittodrie. McStay was off and running.

In the same year, he captained Scotland to victory in the UEFA European Under-18 Championship. It remains the only major trophy won by any Scottish national football side to date.

McStay's star was on the rise.

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Throughout the 1980s he established himself as a creative driving force in the Celtic midfield. His technical ability at times was head and shoulders above his peers.

However, in his early Celtic career, it wasn't just Rangers that McStay had to contend with. Throughout the whole of the 1980s Aberdeen and Dundee United dubbed 'The New Firm' regularly challenged for silverware.

The Reds under Sir Alex Ferguson won the domestic title in 1979/80, 1983/84, and 1984/85 and the Scottish Cup in 1981/82, 1982/83, 1983/84, 1985/86 and 1989/90 and the Scottish League Cup in 1985/86 not to mention their stunning European Cup-Winners Cup triumph over Real Madrid in Gothenburg in 1982/83 and subsequent European Super Cup success over Hamburg.

The Tangerines also plundered the title in 1982/83 as well as the Scottish League Cup in 1979/80 and 1980–81. Under Jim McLean Dundee United also reached the 1987 UEFA Cup final but was defeated by Swedish outfit IFK Gothenburg.

McStay for his sins won three Scottish titles in 1981/82, 1985/86, and 1987/88. He scooped four Scottish Cups in 1985, 1988, 1989, and 1995 and one Scottish League Cup in 1982/83.

Some say it was a scant reward for a glittering one-club career spanning 14 years. Just as Aberdeen and Dundee United's golden era was grinding to a halt the Graeme Souness revolution kicked in starting in 1986. However, McStay played a vital part in helping Celtic to a League and Scottish Cup double under Billy McNeill in the Centenary season of 1987/88.

None more so than in the 2-0 New Year derby win at Celtic Park when McStay's football genius was laid bare on the greatest stage of all against Souness et al in the match that mattered most.

It's impossible to view McStay in one's mind without seeing the pirouette and inch-perfect 40-yard pass that parted the Rangers defence like the red, white and blue sea for Chris Morris to run onto and centre for Frank McAvennie to tap home for the opener.

It is one of the best passes ever executed in modern-day football. If you don't believe me. Google it. YouTube it. Do what you want but just watch it and marvel at the sheer magnificence of a footballer who floated like a ballet dancer and whose graciousness of movement. poise, technique and spatial awareness were poetry in motion. If you love football it's a pass you can watch on a loop for hours on end. It's beautiful.

It was also a pass that dictated and dramatically changed the tempo and outcome of a football match. Not just any old match. A Glasgow derby match to boot. Celtic's 2-0 victory that day put them seven points clear in the title race.

McStay would repeat the feat in the Ibrox clash in March when he crashed an unstoppable 20-yard effort past Chris Woods that battered the stanchion such was the ferocity of the hit. Scotspprt covered the game live with Jock Brown describing the action and Sir Alex Ferguson famously saying: "Oh yes, what a marvellous hit from Paul goodness me...what a marvellous goal!"

He then went on to produce one of the greatest Celtic celebrations ever at the home of their city rivals as he collapsed in utter joy in front of the adoring faithful as total bedlam erupted in the Broomloan Road end.

Ironically in December 1987, McStay signed a five-year contract at Celtic and went on to enjoy his finest season ever winning both the SPFA and Scottish Football Writers Player of the Year awards.

Throughout his time at Celtic, it was rumoured that Italian giants were always watching him. Inter Milan in particular showed interest and Celtic were forced to deny that they had turned down £2 million for his services in the early 1980s. Juventus and Fiorentina also expressed a desire for the player but he never made the switch to Serie A and preferred to stay in Paradise.

McStay was also capped 76 times for his country, scoring nine goals. He played in the World Cup finals of 1986 and 1990. He featured in the European Championship finals of 1992 and was selected in 1996 but had to withdraw due to an ankle injury.

The 1990s saw Celtic enter a period of decline. McStay and John Collins were a midfield duo that should have dominated Scottish football for years. They were the right men at the right time. McStay became a stoic symbol of Celtic’s struggles through the 1990s and he was the fall guy in the ill-fated penalty shoot-out loss to unfashionable Raith Rovers in the 1994 Coca-Cola League Cup final at Ibrox of all places.

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He was made the captain in 1990 when Roy Aitken departed Glasgow and it coincided with one of the most fallow periods the club has ever known. From 1989 to 1995, Celtic won nothing. The drought was finally ended at Hampden with a 1-0 Scottish Cup victory over Airdrieonians. A tearful and relieved McStay proudly held aloft the cup.

In his pomp and ceremony, McStay was a class above the rest. He had few peers. He was a dazzling, elegant midfielder and if the truth be told was probably best suited to the languid fluidity and style of Italian football than the rustic setting of Scottish football.

McStay possessed it all. He has a wonderful touch. He was calm and composed in possession. He had a terrifying football vision as well as an unbelievable ability to dissect any defence with a single killer pass. He glided like a ballet dancer on a football pitch.

McStay was the best midfielder in Scotland and among the very finest midfielders in Europe. He is a Scottish Football Hall of Fame and his name is etched in folklore in the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park. He was as proud as punch when he was voted into the best-ever Celtic XI in 2002.

McStay represented a Celtic symbol of hope during the dark days of the 1990s. He shone like a beacon. He may not be the most decorated but he is one of the most revered and respected Celtic players ever.

He was a great player. His former teammates will testify to that.

Celtic Way:

Paul Elliott once said this of him: "I had the privilege of playing against Marco Van Basten and Diego Maradona, but in terms of my most talented team-mates, there was a Brazilian called Carlos Verri, better known as Brazilian legend Dunga and Paul McStay at Celtic.”

Neil Lennon opined: "Maybe Paul McStay should talk to some of our younger generation and let them know what it was like. He is one of the greatest of all time. Unfortunately, he played in difficult times for the club but what an unbelievable player. He could have played anywhere. He was one of the big influences in my career, watching the way he played. He is so humble but Paul, at his peak, would walk into any Celtic team in any era.”

Pierre Van Hooijdonk said: "Scoring the winning goal in that final and seeing the joy and happiness of the fans and players made me realise how important it was for Celtic after six years without a trophy. The moment when I really realised what it all meant was when the game finished and I saw Paul McStay and Peter Grant, two real Celtic men, crying on the pitch and hugging each other for 10 or 15 minutes, that´s when I realised what this club meant.”

Paul McStay. The Maestro.

At his height, McStay could have conducted any midfield orchestra in European or world football. Yes, McStay was that good.