Ex-wife of Rangers hero Fernando Ricksen speaks out over court battle

“Fernando wants revenge because I left him”

The ex-wife of stricken Rangers hero Fernando Ricksen has broken her silence on her turbulent marriage to the idol.

The former Ibrox legend who has motor neurone disease is fighting a bitter court battle with ex Graciela L’Ami over their shared fortune.

The pair were once the toast of Glasgow and enjoyed a glamorous shared lifestyle. However they now face a Dutch court hearing to unravel their once joint fortune.

Despite this Graciela last night insisted she wants to resolve the dispute without causing any undue distress to the 37-year-old.

And, in a searingly honest interview with The Sunday Post, the beautician also reveals how she was left “hurt” by the news Ricksen has the debilitating illness.

Graciela, 40, said: “You wouldn’t wish the disease on anyone, especially not someone you’ve shared your joys and sorrows with for years, even though he crossed the line so many times and has been so unfair.

“Fernando wants to portray me as a gold-digger, but I’m very reasonable. He wants revenge because I left him and found a new love.”

Last month it emerged the Dutch courts have been asked to rule on their financial dispute.

Ricksen is attempting to sue Graciela for £650,000. His lawyers claim she removed £1m from their joint bank account and put it in her own. The transaction was not a criminal offence as their assets were shared, but his lawyers allege she took more than she was entitled to.

Graciela, however, has hit back at this saying: “He should be happy that I am so fair, but he acts like I’m trying to steal from him.

“I just hope I can sort our finances out with him, rather than with his new wife after his death.

“After our marriage ended, he didn’t want to be open about our financial situation. We never had very clear arrangements.”

The Dutch courts have ruled Ricksen must now reveal what he earned while playing for Russian side Zenit St Petersburg.

Graciela added: “I proposed to leave the situation as it was and to sell and divide our house in Spain, but he didn’t respond. Now he has to show his bank accounts from Russia and probably more money somewhere will appear. The amounts he talks about are incorrect.

“I’m not looking for more money and don’t owe him anything.”

A golden Rolex watch, diamonds and Ricksen’s jersey from the 2008 UEFA Cup final are also at the centre of the dispute.

Graciela, who insists she hasn’t refused to give them back, added: “I don’t have those things.”

Ricksen has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neurone disease. In December the former international full back revealed the degenerative condition was rapidly taking its toll, severely affecting his speech and causing him to shake uncontrollably.

He has been warned his body will give up on him as it attacks his central nervous system and as the illness progresses he will struggle to speak, swallow and breathe.

Two months ago he married his long-term partner Veronika in secret in the Belgian town of Maasiek and later posted a picture of the couple on Twitter with their two-year-old daughter Isabella.

Despite his new-found married happiness, however, Ricksen claims he is now broke and has to borrow money from his mother who lives on benefits.

However, Graciela who lived in a Glasgow city centre penthouse with the player has cast doubt on the extent of his financial hardship.

She said: “He earned £1m for many years. It’s impossible that he spent everything.

“Fernando did spend money in strip bars in Moscow, but he was home a lot as well. He used to brag that he had almost £7m.”

Graciela met Ricksen in a bar in Alkmaar while he was playing for local side AZ.

Less than a year later in 2000 they married in Glasgow after he had been signed by new Rangers boss Dick Advocaat. During his turbulent Ibrox spell Ricksen struggled to cope and the pressure took its toll.

Graciela said: “The first few years were hard. I was alone at home most of the time. My son Wim was at school and Fernando was away for matches. It was very quiet there. I felt very isolated.

“Jan Wouters was a coach at Rangers at the time. He and his wife Mathilde invited me over for drinks from time to time. And I often played sports with Ronald de Boer’s ex-wife.

“But, Fernando would be calling me and telling me to go home because otherwise the dog would be on his own.”

Graciela insists there were times when she had wanted to leave him, but he did everything to keep her there. “He would suddenly start being sweet and nice again, so I believed it would be all right in the end. He manipulated me,” she said. “He said things like, ‘I’ll be devastated if you leave me’.

“I felt depressed and had become more and more dependent on him. I did everything I could to avoid fighting. I regret that now, of course.”

Ricksen who was due to speak at a fundraising event at Glasgow’s Thistle Hotel last night is believed to be anxious about the financial wrangle.

Earlier this year he said: “I don’t know why she’s doing this to me, she knows I’m dying.”

The next court hearing will be in August.

Graciela, who is in a relationship with sports lawyer Evert Hoekstra, added: “I hope to finally close this chapter of my life and move on with my new love.”

Ricksen was signed for Rangers by fellow Dutchman Dick Advocaat for £3.6million in 2000.

During his six year spell at Ibrox his off field antics meant he made as many headlines off the pitch as he did on it.

In 2004 he was fined £7,000 after being convicted of a breach of the peace and assault in relation to a drunken late night party.

He had been setting off fireworks and was confronted by his neighbour when the incident happened.

The following year he jointly won the SPFA player of the year and announced he was giving up drink.

But the following year new manager Paul Le Guen sent him home in disgrace from a pre-season training camp in South Africa after allegations of a boozy bust-up with a stewardess on the trip out.

He then moved to Russian side Zenit St Petersburg and played against Rangers in the 2008 UEFA Cup Final.

In December Ricksen released his autobiography “Fighting Spirit” in which he detailed his wild antics while playing in Scotland.

They included claims he bedded glamour model Katie Price, throwing a seemingly endless string of wild parties and constant cheating on Graciela.

Graciela said the warts and all book made for difficult reading.

She said: “I didn’t want to read it but decided to after my son bought it. It was confronting – but mainly I feel sorry for him.”

In his tell-all book Ricksen admits to struggling with cocaine and alcohol addiction.

Graciela recalls convincing Fernando to go to the Sporting Chance Clinic in London in 2005, after being sent home from a pre-season tour to South Africa.

The therapy worked well. He did not drink or use drugs for several months after. But then a move to join Dick Advocaat at Zenit in St Petersburg came up.

She added: “I thought it was a bad idea because he was still struggling with his alcohol addiction and couldn’t continue the therapy in Russia.

“He still needed help from the Alcoholics Anonymous.

“I even went to talk to Advocaat and asked him not to give Fernando the contract, but it didn’t help.

“On arrival in St Petersburg, his assistant offered him a beer.

“It’s hard to stay away from alcohol and drugs in the soccer world. And women, of course. Especially in Russia.”

Report by Graham McKendry and Thessa Lageman

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