Former Hearts and Rangers defender Marius Zaliukas has died at the age of 36, the Lithuanian Football Federation has confirmed.
Centre-back Zaliukas played more than 150 games for Hearts between 2007 and 2013, captaining the club to Scottish Cup success in 2012.
He then had short stints at Leeds United and Rangers before returning to Lithuania, for whom he won 25 caps.
“We express our deepest condolences to Marius’ family,” read an LFF statement.
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson, who played alongside Zaliukas at Hearts, said he found out about his ex-teammate’s death a minute before the start of their Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibernian.
“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.”
Neil McCann played with Zaliukas at Hearts between 2006 and 2008 and told BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound: “I’m shocked. Condolences to his family.
“He was a really, really nice big guy. What a nice man he was. I can’t say enough nice things about him. He was a good footballer.”