Former Hearts captain Marius Zaliukas has died at the age of 36, the Lithuanian Football Federation has confirmed.
The defender captained the Edinburgh side to their famous Scottish Cup win in 2012, and made over 150 appearances for the club.
He later played for Leeds United and Rangers.
The news broke during Hearts’ Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Hibs, who they beat in the 2012 final.
Following the match, the club tweeted: “Everyone at Heart of Midlothian Football Club is devastated to learn of the passing of Scottish Cup winning captain Marius Zaliukas.
“A full tribute will follow, but for now we send our love to Marius’ family and friends.
“That win was for you, skipper.”
Everyone at Heart of Midlothian Football Club is devastated to learn of the passing of Scottish Cup winning captain Marius Zaliukas.
A full tribute will follow, but for now we send our love to Marius' family and friends.
That win was for you, skipper 🏆 ♥️ pic.twitter.com/kH7aHePOSi
— Heart of Midlothian FC (@JamTarts) October 31, 2020
Head coach Robbie Neilson, who played alongside Zaliukas at Hearts, told the BBC that he had found out about his ex-teammate’s death a minute before the start of the game.
He said: “It’s fitting today that we beat our arch rivals Hibs in a Scottish Cup game.
“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.”
Zaliukas was released by Hearts in 2013 after administration, and signed for Leeds before returning north of the border a year later to Rangers.
He left in 2015 and ended his career with FK Žalgiris in his homeland.
The Ibrox club said in a statement: “Rangers Football Club is tonight shocked and saddened to hear of the death of former player Marius Zaliukas at the age of just 36.
“The thoughts of the directors, management and players of Rangers are with Marius’ family at this sad and difficult time.”
#RangersFC is tonight shocked and saddened to hear of the death of former player Marius Zaliukas at the age of just 36.
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) October 31, 2020
Fans and former teammates shared their tributes on social media:
Cannot believe the news I’m hearing about big Zal. RIP skipper 😥🇱🇻 pic.twitter.com/gpMEbYdOBu
— Danny Grainger (@Dannyg31986) October 31, 2020
A real Heart of Midlothian legend. Rags to riches to Scottish Cup winning captain. Absolute hammer blow this news. Rest easy, Skipper ❤️ pic.twitter.com/SEMRWMRXZB
— Robert Borthwick 🦉 (@RFBorthwick) October 31, 2020
Devastated RIP Marius Žaliūkas pic.twitter.com/N6VJEqQe0r
— Lucina Fazakerley (@LucinaFaz) October 31, 2020
36 is no age at all. Dreadfully sad. https://t.co/2P94BCXw62
— Heart & Hand Podcast (@ibroxrocks) October 31, 2020
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