Former Hearts, Leeds and Rangers defender Marius Zaliukas dies at the age of just 36 following battle with illness as former team-mates pay tribute to the ‘really nice guy’ in the wake of his tragic death
- Marius Zaliukas had led Hearts to Scottish Cup final glory over Hibernian in 2012
- The news of death at the age of 36 after an illness was announced on Saturday
- Zaliukas, an iconic central defender, also enjoyed spells with Leeds and Rangers
Former Hearts, Leeds and Rangers defender Marius Zaliukas has died at the age of 36, the Lithuanian Football Federation has announced.
Zaliukas captained Hearts to Scottish Cup final glory against Hibernian in 2012 during a six-year spell at Tynecastle and later had shorter spells at Elland Road and Ibrox.
The news was announced during Hearts’ Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibs.
Former Hearts, Leeds and Rangers defender Marius Zaliukas has died aged 36 after an illness
The LFF said in a statement: ‘Marius Zaliukas represented the Lithuanian national team from 2006 to 2016 and managed to score one goal.
‘Marius inspired countless young footballers, and his contribution to Lithuanian football will never be forgotten.
‘On behalf of the Lithuanian football community, we express our deepest condolences to Marius’ family.’
The sad news was confirmed by the the Lithuanian Football Federation on Saturday afternoon
Zaliukas spent the majority of his club career in Scotland after arriving at Hearts from FBK Kaunas.
Hearts said they were ‘devastated’ to learn of his death and sent their condolences to his family.
‘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.’
The club’s head coach Robbie Neilson, a former team-mate of Zaliukas, and echoed that their victory against Hibernian was dedicated to him that he would go down in folklore at the Scottish Premiership side.
‘It’s fitting today that we beat our arch rivals Hibs 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.’
Meanwhile, Rangers, who Zaliukas played for between 2014 and 2015, also penned a tribute message on social media, admitting to their ‘shock’ at his death.
‘Rangers FC 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.’
Leeds posted a message on social media to pay tribute to their former player.
The statement read: ‘The thoughts of everyone at #LUFC are with the friends and family of former defender Marius Žaliūkas who has sadly passed away at 36’.
A memorial service will take place in Lithuania on November 4.