RANGERS is deeply saddened to announce that former player Fernando Ricksen passed away this morning following his battle with motor neurone disease.

Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson said: “Everyone connected with Rangers will be distressed by Fernando’s passing. He fought so bravely against a terrible illness and our thoughts are with his family.

“Fernando will never be forgotten by his teammates or Rangers fans. His place in our history is secured.’

Rangers Chairman Dave King said: “I would like to place on record my admiration for the manner in which Fernando dealt with such a dreadful illness. He was an inspiration.

“Fernando was also a wonderful player for this club and you could see what it meant to him to be a part of Rangers. He will never be forgotten for the way he faced adversity, on and off the pitch and my thoughts are with his family at this desperately sad time.”

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.

Signing from AZ Alkmaar, he endured a difficult start to life in Glasgow, but in typical Fernando fashion, he worked hard in the face of adversity to become a mainstay in the side when Alex McLeish took over as manager in December 2001.

He played in both the League Cup and Scottish Cup finals of that season, as Gers defeated Ayr United and Celtic respectively to claim a cup double.

The following season, he was an outstanding performer as the Light Blues went one better to win the domestic treble with Ricksen again playing in both cup finals.

Season 2003/04 was a disappointment for everyone at Rangers, but season 2004/05 was to be another memorable campaign, with Fernando named captain of the side in January 2005 following an injury to Stefan Klos.

He was truly wonderful in that campaign, particularly after being handed the armband, and began adding goals to his game, claiming a total of nine in that season, while he was named as Rangers’ Player of the Year and joint-SPFA Player of the Year with John Hartson.

In a crucial game at Hearts in the title run-in, he remained calm under intense pressure to net a 94th-minute winner from the penalty spot to keep Gers in the hunt for the big prize.

He also scored a terrific free-kick against Motherwell in a 5-1 League Cup final win as he lifted his first trophy as captain, but the main event of the season was still to come.

Trailing Celtic by two points going into the final game of the season, a defeat for Martin O’Neill’s side at Motherwell coupled with a win for Gers at Hibs meant McLeish’s men sensationally claimed the title – with Fernando being the man to lift the trophy on one of the most iconic days in the club’s history.

Fernando left for Zenit and, in a twist of fate, was an unused substitute for them against Rangers in the 2008 UEFA Cup Final.

He left Zenit in 2009 and wound down his career at his first club, Fortuna Sittard until his retirement.

In October 2013, he revealed he was suffering from motor neuron disease, and since then, has fought a terrific battle against the condition, raising awareness and funds for the Fernando Ricksen Foundation which aims to help others suffering from the illness.

A benefit match was held at Ibrox in January 2015, and attracted over 41,000 fans to Ibrox. It raised £320,000 with the proceeds split between Fernando, his daughter Isabella, MND Scotland and the Rangers Charity Foundation.

A member of the Rangers Hall of Fame, he also won 12 caps for his native Holland.

The thoughts of everyone at Rangers is today with his wife Veronika, his daughter Isabella and all his family and friends.

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