Marius Zaliukas: Former Hearts & Rangers defender dead at age of 36

Marius Zaliukas made more than 150 appearances for Hearts across six years
Marius Zaliukas made more than 150 appearances for Hearts across six years

Former Hearts and Rangers defender Marius Zaliukas has died at the age of 36 after battling motor neurone disease.

Centre-back Zaliukas played more than 150 games for Hearts between 2007 and 2013, captaining the club to Scottish Cup success in 2012.

He then had short stints at Leeds United and Rangers before returning to Lithuania, for whom he won 25 caps.

The news was broken by the Lithuanian Football Federation on Saturday.

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson played alongside Zaliukas at Hearts, and found out moments before the start of their Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibernian.

"It's fitting today that we beat our arch rivals in a Scottish Cup game," the Hearts coach said.

"Because when you think about Marius the key one is him lifting that cup as the captain when they beat Hibs 5-1. Hopefully this will give slight comfort to the family in this difficult time.

"He was a huge part of the club. That 5-1 victory in the Scottish Cup will go down in folklore forever. So we're all devastated."

Neil McCann played with Zaliukas at Hearts between 2006 and 2008 and told BBC Radio Scotland's Sportsound: "I'm shocked. Condolences to his family.

"He was a really, really nice big guy. What a nice man he was. I can't say enough nice things about him. He was a good footballer."

'Marius was a happy-go-lucky guy' - former Hearts team-mate Stewart pays Zaliukas tribute

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