Hearts have paid further tribute to Marius Zaliukas after dedicating their Edinburgh derby win to their former skipper.
News of the Lithuanian’s death at the age of 36 emerged as Hearts beat Hibernian 2-1 at Hampden in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals.
The former Kaunas and Lithuania centre-back led Hearts to their greatest derby win in 2012 – the 5-1 Hampden win that clinched their most recent Scottish Cup triumph.
A club tribute read: “From the boardroom to the stands, everyone connected with the Heart of Midlothian Football Club was shocked and saddened to learn that Marius Zaliukas had passed away, 11 days before his 37th birthday, after a brave struggle against motor neurone disease.
🗣 “Hopefully we can give a slight bit of comfort to his family to say that this game is for him as well."— Heart of Midlothian FC (@JamTarts) November 1, 2020
“During his time in the capital, this engaging young man was a fine player, extremely popular with his team-mates and a great favourite with the supporters. Accordingly, he will long be remembered at Tynecastle Park.
“Marius played a big part in Hearts claiming third place in the SPL in 2008-09 and fully merited his 18-month loan extension, despite being sent off four times. Marius was, in fact, appointed vice-captain for 2009-10, although he was badly missed during the first half of that season, due to ankle and hamstring injuries.
“Manager Jim Jefferies promoted the big stopper to captain the following season and when his contract with Kaunas FBK expired, Marius was signed on a permanent basis, from November 2010 until the summer of 2013.
“He led Hearts to third place in the SPL in 2010-11 and, of course, Marius famously captained Hearts to a 5-1 victory over Hibernian in the Scottish Cup final of 2012.
“Due to injury and suspension, he was sorely missed in the League Cup final against St.Mirren in March 2013, and then sadly, Marius left the club in the summer of 2013 after Hearts went into administration.
“The majestic Lithuanian defender has made more appearances for Hearts than any other overseas player, with 222 competitive games and 15 goals.
“His beaming smile when holding the Scottish Cup in 2012 is an iconic moment in Hearts’ history.
“Marius also has legendary status in Lithuania where he is regarded as an inspiration to young players who want to appear in the top leagues of Europe.
“Our deepest condolences are extended to his wife Nora and family.”
Zaliukas played for Leeds and Rangers after leaving Hearts and his wife gave birth to their first child, also called Marius, in March this year.
Leeds said they were “saddened to learn of the sudden passing” of their former defender.
A club statement added: “After lifting the Scottish Cup as Hearts captain, Brian McDermott signed Zaliukas in 2013, initially on a contract until the end of the season, before impressive performances for the Whites led to an extension.
“Making his debut in our 2-0 win over Yeovil Town, he would make 16 appearances for the Whites during the 2013/14 Championship season, producing a last minute block against Watford to deny them a win.
“Our thoughts are with Marius’ family and friends at this time.”
Marius was an example to everyone trying to make it in football.For years he got a hard time off fans, called a bombscare,not good enough. He stuck at it, worked hard & ended up Skippering the club to one of the greatest results while winning the Scottish Cup 🏆 Rest easy mate 💔— Ryan McGowan (@rmcgowan89) October 31, 2020
Rangers said they were “shocked and saddened” by the news while former team-mates also paid tribute.
Former Hearts defender Ryan McGowan, who scored in the final against Hibs, wrote on Twitter: “Marius was an example to everyone trying to make it in football.
“For years he got a hard time off fans, called a bombscare, not good enough.
“He stuck at it, worked hard & ended up Skippering the club to one of the greatest results while winning the Scottish Cup.”
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