Marius Zaliukas, former Hearts captain and Rangers defender, dies at 36

Former Hearts captain Marius Zaliukas has died at the age of 36, the Lithuanian Football Federation has confirmed.

Marius Zaliukas pictured in December 2012. The former Hearts captain has died at the age of 36
Marius Zaliukas pictured in December 2012. The former Hearts captain has died at the age of 36

The Kaunas-born defender joined Hearts initially on loan in 2006 before signing a permanent deal in 2007 and remaining at the Tynecastle Park side until 2013.

Zaliukas captained the side to Scottish Cup glory against rivals Hibs in May 2012, and after leaving Hearts had spells with Leeds, Rangers, and Zalgiris.

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A statement from the Lithuanian Football Federation read: “Marius Zaliukas, a long-term national team defender and legendary Lithuanian football defender, has gone to eternal rest.

"On behalf of the Lithuanian football community, we send our condolences to Marius’s family.

"Marius inspired a lot of young football players throughout his career, and his contribution to Lithuanian football will never be forgotten.”

Zaliukas won 25 caps for his country, scoring once against Slovakia in a 1-1 draw in September 2012.

He began his career with the now-defunct Inkaras Kaunas, before joining FBK Kaunas in 2004.

After a loan spell with FK Silute in 2004/05, he joined Hearts in 2006, playing 27 games before signing a permanent deal the following year.

The big defender became a firm favourite with the Gorgie faithful, making more than 200 appearances during his seven seasons in Edinburgh, before a short spell in England with Leeds.

He returned to Scotland with Rangers in 2014, playing 28 times and scoring twice before leaving in August 2015 by mutual consent.

Zaliukas rounded off his playing career with a brief stint at Zalgiris before hanging up his boots in 2016.

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