London, United Kingdom, Sep 18 – Former Netherlands and Rangers player Fernando Ricksen has died at the age of 43 following a battle with motor neurone disease, the Scottish Premiership club announced on Wednesday.
Ricksen, who spent six years at Rangers until 2006, announced he was suffering from the disease in October 2013.
“Rangers is deeply saddened to announce that former player Fernando Ricksen passed away this morning following his battle with motor neurone disease,” the Scottish club said on their official website.
“Fernando spent six trophy-laden seasons at Ibrox, having initially joined a number of other Dutch players under manager Dick Advocaat in the summer of 2000.”
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard paid his respects and called on his team to produce a tribute victory against Feyenoord in the Europa League on Thursday.
“On behalf of the club I would like to pay tribute. He was a fantastic player who had a decorated career,” Gerrard said.
“I was lucky enough to meet him a couple of times, recently as well when you could see that he was in pain and suffering but you could see the fight he was still putting up with.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of emotions in the stadium tomorrow and I think Fernando deserves that. I’m sure both sets of supporters will pay their respects.
“We ask the supporters to get right behind the team because I think it would be a nice tribute to him if we can put in a good performance and try to get maximum points.
“We’d certainly dedicate it to him and his family.”
Ricksen, who won 12 caps for the Netherlands and was signed by Rangers from AZ Alkmaar for £3.75 million ($4.7m) in 2000, raised awareness and funds to help other sufferers of motor neurone disease through the Fernando Ricksen Foundation.
A benefit match for the Dutchman, held at Ibrox in January 2015, drew more than 41,000 fans and raised £320,000 with the proceeds split between Fernando, his daughter Isabella, MND Scotland and the Rangers Charity Foundation.
Ricksen left Rangers to join Zenit St Petersburg on a permanent deal in 2007 before returning to the Netherlands to join Fortuna Sittard.
Peter Lovenkrands, who also joined Rangers in 2000 and spent six years with the Scottish club, paid tribute to his former teammate on social media.
The 39-year-old posted on Instagram: “You looked after me when we signed at Rangers together, taking me back and forward to training because I didn’t have a car, great memories on and off the pitch!
“A true warrior and leader on the pitch! You’ll be truly missed. RIP my friend.”
Fortuna, currently second bottom in Eredivisie, and Zenit, second in the Russian top flight, both paid tribute on Twitter.