Robbie Neilson has admitted that the death of former Hearts and Rangers defender Marius Zaliukas was “devastating” and hopes his side can win the Scottish Cup this week and pay tribute to the Lithuanian.

Neilson and Zaliukas played together at Tynecastle and Zaliukas’ tragic death from MND in October was announced as the Jambos were facing bitter rivals Hibs in the semi-final at Hampden.

Robbie Neilson was a team-mate of Zaliukas at Hearts (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

The Hearts boss thinks that it is “really important” that the club pay tribute to the last skipper to lift a major trophy for Hearts, with the Jambos also wearing number 26 on their shorts.

“I think it’s really important. Marius was a massive part of the club. I knew him very well and he lifted the cup in 2012,” Neilson said. [Scottish Sun]

“What happened to him in the last couple of years is devastating for everyone. It’s a little bit of a tribute to him.

“Hopefully we can win it for him as well.”

After his time at Tynecastle, Zaliukas moved to England with Leeds United before a quickfire return to Scottish football with Rangers in 2014.

A season at Ibrox under Ally McCoist saw him become a regular for the Light Blues before being moved on shortly after Mark Warburton was appointed as manager in 2015.

Rangers v Dumbarton - Scottish Championship
Zaliukas was only 36 when he died in October (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Zaliukas was the third former Rangers player to die from MND in recent years after the untimely deaths of Fernando Ricksen and David Hagen.

One of Zaliukas’ former Rangers team-mates spoke about the Lithuanian international shortly after his death, paying him a glowing tribute.

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