Rangers Football Club has confirmed that Fernando Ricksen has tragically died at just 43 following a long battle with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

His fight with the debilitating disease not only brought the Scottish footballing community together, it united both sides of the Old Firm.

Born in Heerlen on July 27, 1976, the footballer is best known for his six-year spell at Glasgow Rangers Football Club where he won seven trophies. He came from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar for a fee of £3.75million in 2000. He also made his mark playing for Fortuna Sittard and Zenit St Petersburg where he won the Russian Premier League crown.

The former Rangers captain’s career with the Ibrox side peaked during the 2004/2005 season when he jointly won the SPFA player of the year with Celtic’s John Hartson after scoring nine goals from midfield in 40 appearances for the club. That same year Rangers went on to win the league and league cup double.

As well as being a hero at club level, he also turned out 12 times for his country The Netherlands. His role in international football has been immortalised in an Orange Wall of Fame in the Netherlands among the likes of Ronald and Frank De Boer, Clarence Seedorf and Johan Cruyff.

READ MORE: Fernando Ricksen: As defiant in life as he was on the pitch 

But it was his fight off field that caught the admiration of football fans across Scotland and the world after Ricksen was diagnosed with MND in October, 2013. At the time he was given only 18 months to live but in true testament to his strength and courage, he battled on to fight the muscle-wasting condition for several more years.

He found new ways to manage living with MND including the use of a  voice-computer to communicate, similar to the one used by Professor Stephen Hawking and he continued to delight fans with public appearances at various fundraising events.

The Fernando Ricksen Foundation was set up in his honour in June 2016 and promotes a message, which the star also had tattooed on his chest, “I am a warrior, a warrior with fighting spirit. I will never give up and never surrender.”

Fernando’s charity was set up with the aim to defeat the disease. In his mission statement for the charity, Fernando said: “I have always said: one day there will be a man who defeats MND. Let me be that man. Let me the first human being who gets the beast on its knees. I know, it’s everything but a fair battle. This disease, this demon, is lethal. So I can’t do it entirely on my own. I need support – your support! So please stand behind me. Only together we can kick MND in the balls.”

READ MORE: Motor neuron disease sufferer Fernando Ricksen honoured by thousands of fans at Rangers and England legends clash at Fleetwood

His life was captured in the moving documentary Fernando Ricksen – The Final Battle which was shot in his native Holland and Spain.

The Dutch warrior also signalled his final defiant move against MND by getting a tattoo on his neck to show he had the heart of a lion.