Former Netherlands defender Fernando Ricksen has died after a six-year battle with motor neurone disease, it was announced on Wednesday. He was 43. Here is pictured during his time Zenit St. Petersburg. Photo:Paul Thomas/AP Photo

AMSTERDAM  The former Dutch international Fernando Ricksen has died aged 43 from motor neurone disease, the Scottish club Rangers confirmed on Wednesday.

"Everyone connected with Rangers will be distressed by Fernando's passing," said the club's managing director Stewart Robertson.

"He fought so bravely against a terrible illness and our thoughts are with his family."

A combative defender and midfielder, Ricksen revealed he had been diagnosed with the disease in October 2013. Since then he helped raised awareness and funds for a foundation in his name which aims to help others suffering from the disease.

"Today we lost much more than an exceptional footballer: Fernando was the embodiment of what it means to react with kindness and solidarity in face of adversity," FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on social media.

"His commitment to the fight against motor neurone disease leaves an indelible legacy to this world, far beyond the realm of football. My thoughts are with his wife, his daughter, his family and friends".

Ricksen began and ended his career with home club Fortuna Sittard and also played for AZ Alkmaar and Zenit St Petersburg. He is survived by his wife and daughter.

dpa