TRIBUTES poured in following news of the tragic death of former Rangers captain Fernando Ricksen with motor neurone disease at the age of 43.
The Dutch-born Ibrox hero passed away in the early hours of this morning after courageously battling the illness for six years following the diagnosis in 2013.
Football stars and clubs have united to pay their respects to the former Gers star who won two league titles, two Scottish Cups and three League Cups during his six-year spell in Glasgow.
Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell, in a club statement, said: “Everyone at Celtic would like to extend their most sincere and heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of Fernando Ricksen following today’s news that he has passed away.
“Fernando was part of Scottish Football for a number of years and for him to be taken so young is a huge tragedy.
“He fought this terrible condition with such courage and we should all admire and respect the inspirational way in which he tackled the challenge which he faced.
“He showed immense bravery throughout. Our thoughts and prayers, of course, are with Fernando’s family and friends at such a difficult time.”
Stiliyan Petrov, a former Hoops rival of Ricksen, took to Twitter, writing: “Rest in peace, my friend. True fighter on and off the pitch. My thoughts are with you and your family.”
Ex-Celtic player John Hartson also wrote: “Sorry to hear Fernando Ricksen has passed away… fought till the end. My thoughts are with his immediate family and friends.”
Frank McAvennie, another ex-Celt, wrote: “Just heard the news about ex Rangers player Fernando Ricksen passing away, if anyone needs a bit of inspiration to keep going then look no further, RIP Buddy.”
Former Rangers team-mate Nacho Novo wrote: “Sad news, my friend, my best friend, a role model, always a fighter. Love you to bits mate. RIP, I will see you soon, brother.”
Clubs from around Europe – including some of his former side’s – posted messages.
AZ Alkmaar wrote: “Rest in Peace” while his other former club Zenit Saint Petersburg said: “We’re deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our former player Fernando Ricksen.
“He battled bravely against motor neurone disease right until the end and we are all thinking of him and his family at this difficult time.”
Supporters turned up to the Ibrox to pay their respects to their former star, leaving flags and shirts outside the gates in memory of Ricksen.
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