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Ricksen succumbs to motor neurone disease

Former Netherlands, Rangers, AZ and Zenit player Fernando Ricksen has died at the age of 43.

Fernando Ricksen in his prime with Rangers
Fernando Ricksen in his prime with Rangers ©Getty Images

Former Rangers player Fernando Ricksen has died at age 43 after losing his battle with motor neurone disease. Capped 12 times for the Netherlands, Ricksen was diagnosed with the disease in 2013 and passed away at St Andrews' hospice in Airdrie on Wednesday morning.

Ricksen was a fans' favourite during his six-year spell at Rangers after being signed from AZ Alkmaar by compatriot Dick Advocaat in 2000. He helped the Ibrox club to a domestic cup double in 2002 and the treble a year later as well as a league and Scottish League Cup double in 2005, when he was club captain. Ricksen was named as joint Scottish Premier League Player of the Year with Celtic's John Hartson that season.

After leaving Rangers for Zenit, where he was reunited with Advocaat, Ricksen helped his side to reach the 2008 UEFA Cup final, where Zenit lifted the trophy for the first time after a 2-0 victory against Rangers in Manchester (though Ricksen was an unused substitute in the final itself).

In a statement Rangers said they were "deeply saddened" to announce the news of Ricksen's passing. "The thoughts of everyone at Rangers is today with his wife Veronika, his daughter Isabella and all his family and friends," the club added. Zenit also sent their condolences: "Zenit express our deepest sympathy to Fernando Ricksen's friends and family. Our match against Rubin on Saturday will start with a minute's in his honour."

The Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) joined his other former clubs, Fortuna Sittard and AZ, in sending their best wishes, writing: "The KNVB wishes his family and friends a lot of strength to bear this big loss."