Fernando Ricksen, who has died at the age of 43 following a brave and courageous six-year fight against Motor Neurone Disease, was a professional footballer who played for Fortuna Sittard and AZ Alkmaar in his native Holland and Russian giants Zenit St Petersburg. But he will be remembered in Scotland for the six years he spent with Rangers. He was also capped 12 times for his country.

Born on July 27, 1976 in Heerlen, Limburg, in the Netherlands, the young Fernando Jacob Ricksen signed for Dutch club Roda JC Kerkrade as a 12-year-old in 1988. He was coached and schooled in the youth ranks there for four years before signing for Fortuna Sitttard in 1992, with whom he would make his senior professional debut two years later.

He would go on to play 94 times for Fortuna, scoring five goals before moving to AZ Alkmaar in 1997 and, over the next three years, would make 92 appearances, netting 12 goals.

READ MORE: Rangers legend Fernando Ricksen dies aged 43

Primarily a full-back but versatile enough to play in midfield, by the turn of the millennium, Ricksen had attracted the attention of Rangers and their Dutch manager Dick Advocaat.

A £3.75 million transfer followed in the summer of 2000 and he joined a growing Dutch colony at Ibrox.

It is fair comment to state Ricksen did not enjoy the most successful start to his career in Scotland, suffering a torrid Old Firm debut at Celtic Park in one of his first games when in direct opposition to winger Bobby Petta. Ricksen was substituted after just 23 minutes in a 2-6 defeat for the Ibrox men.

Nevertheless, the full-back earned his first international call-up for Holland in November of that year, as a substitute in Seville in a 2-1 defeat of Spain. Ironically, his second appearance in the national side saw him up against current Rangers manager Steven Gerrard in a 1-1 draw against England at the Amsterdam Arena on February 13, 2002.

The arrival of Alex McLeish as Ibrox boss in succession to Dick Advocaat in December 2001 had given Ricksen a new lease of life, becoming a mainstay of the Rangers side who would win the Scottish FA and League Cup competitions that season and would secure the Treble one year later.

Indeed, season 2002-03 would be an outstanding one for the Dutchman, who, in addition to his club success, would be honoured no fewer than eight times by his country.

Ricksen was appointed Rangers captain in January 2005 and led the club to success in the League Cup Final of March 2005 – scoring in the 5-1 defeat of Motherwell. However, his time as Ibrox skipper will forever be remembered for “Helicopter Sunday” when a 1-0 win over Hibernian at Easter Road coupled with Celtic’s late 1-2 defeat at Motherwell secured the League Championship for Rangers.

Ricksen had shown real qualities of leadership during that campaign. On one evening at Tynecastle in the title run-in, he netted a penalty deep into injury time in a vital 2-1 win over Hearts. At the end of that season he was voted SPFA Player of the Year jointly with John Hartson of Celtic, as well as being voted the club’s Player of the Year.

On the field he was described as “always playing on the edge” but one former team-mate, Billy Dodds, perhaps summed up the affection with which Ricksen will be remembered: “He would cause trouble in an empty house, but he was so genuine…”

The arrival of Paul Le Guen as manager was not good news for Ricksen – he fell out with the Frenchman on a pre-season trip to South Africa and was soon on his way out of Ibrox, after 182 games and 13 goals.

READ MORE: Celtic release heartfelt statement after death of Rangers legend Fernando Ricksen

He moved to Zenit St Petersburg and would play 36 times, scoring twice, for the Russian club over the next three years. Ironically, he would be an unused substitute in Manchester when Dick Advocaat’s Zenit defeated Rangers 2-0 in the Uefa Cup Final.

He returned to the Netherlands in 2010, to the club where he had started his senior career Fortuna Sittard and would make a further 48 appearances for the Dutch club, yielding one goal, before retiring.

In October 2013 he stunned the sporting world when announcing that he was suffering from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Motor Neurone Disease) at the age of only 37.

He was inducted into the Rangers Hall of Fame on

March 30, 2014 and the following January an attendance in excess of 41,000 were present at Ibrox for a benefit match in aid of Ricksen, his daughter Isabella who was born in 2011, MND Scotland and the Rangers Charity Foundation, raising £320,000.

After diagnosis in 2013, Ricksen spent the past six years campaigning and fund-raising to find a cure for the debilitating condition. His charity The Fernando Ricksen Foundation raised more than £1m.

In early-2018 Fortuna Sittard unveiled a statue of him. Ricksen, in a wheelchair, attended the unveiling.

He is survived by Russian wife Veronika, whom he married in 2014, and his daughter Isabella.