He was held up as a hell-raiser, the archetypal bad boy, but Fernando Ricksen will also be remembered as one of Scottish football's greatest competitors. Ricksen was a Dutchman whose traits were more typical of a British player, an energetic and committed figure who liked nothing more than the rough and tumble of the Scottish Premier League. It was an environment suited to his all-action style. Particularly those ancient derby matches with Glasgow foes Celtic.
The ghastly news that he is fighting Motor Neurone Disease is difficult to comprehend for a figure who was defined by his energy. Football is such a short career, but at only 37, Ricksen should have been looking forward to his life proper with wife Veronica and their daughter Isabella. Instead, a tragic turn of events has charted a different course.
Ricksen was part of Rangers around the turn of the millennium when Ibrox Stadium truly was an exciting place to play football, arguably the most enticing venue in the United Kingdom.
Before television millions turned countries like Scotland almost into feeder nations for bigger, wealthier leagues, Rangers revelled in their ability to compete with England's Premier League. And other blue-chip countries.
History shows ill-advised spending finally caught up with the former Rangers owner David Murray in the form of the well-publicised lurch into administration and liquidation, but the businessman also enjoyed an infectious sense of theatre to go with the largesse, encouraging a certain frisson that has not been witnessed in Scotland since the downsizing exercise to deal with fiscal realities began around nine years ago.
One remembers chatting to various agents after the 1998 World Cup finals in France when Advocaat seemed to spend money like a drunken sailor. Rangers managed to recruit some of the very best on the continent.
Fresh from helping the Netherlands reach the last four of France 98, Arthur Numan was recruited from PSV Eindhoven. He was arguably the brightest left-back in Europe at the time.
Ronald de Boer decided to commit to Advocaat's side after departing Barcelona in 2000 rather than opt for Manchester United. Ronald told me he always preferred the prospect of playing at Ibrox.
Ricksen was signed from AZ Alkmaar for £3.75m in 1999. That may sound like a princely sum, but no club in Scotland would consider such an outlay some 14 years on.
Ricksen was perhaps not as classy a full-back as Numan, but his commitment and pride in personal performance was only too obvious during six years under Advocaat and Alex McLeish, particularly in helping the club carry off the domestic treble in 2003 against a Celtic side who had reached the UEFA Cup final in the same season.
Boorish behaviour off the park eventually led to his demise at Rangers when McLeish's successor Paul Le Guen deemed his conduct unacceptable after he was drunk on a club trip to South Africa in 2006. He rejoined Advocaat at Zenit Saint Petersburg on loan. He won the Russian league. He played during Zenit's run to a 2-0 win over Rangers in the 2008 UEFA Cup final without facing the club where he made his name.
Drink driving, drugs, alcohol abuse, breach of the peace and assault painted Ricksen as a temperamental but fiery figure with problems. There were a lot of issues going on away from the football park that were not conducive to the career of a professional, but it all seems so immaterial when such a young life has been laid on the line.
There was also a large helping of colourful character in the Ricksen system as he recovered from being substituted after only 20-odd minutes of a mauling by the Celtic winger Bobby Petta at Celtic Park in 2000. Rangers avenged a 6-2 defeat by walloping Celtic 5-1 in their next outing.
Ricksen progressed to enjoy a gilded spell at Ibrox snaring two Scottish Premier League titles, two Scottish Cups and three League Cups amid over 180 appearance for Rangers including yearly expeditions in the Champions League and UEFA Cup. A dozen caps representing the Netherlands hinted at his versatility. He was a figure comfortable operating in defence and midfield.
Filling in as Rangers captain on several occasions, he was Scotland's player of the year alongside John Hartson at the end of a 2005 season that saw him help Rangers win the League and League Cup.
"The award means a lot because it's voted by your fellow professionals..and to share it with a player of Fernando's quality means an awful lot to me," said Hartson.
It is astonishing to think that in the ensuing eight years, Hartson has fought brain cancer and Ricksen now faces this dreadful situation.
The former Celtic midfielder Stiliyan Petrov was a figure who came across Ricksen in their jousts in the Old Firm match. He yesterday aired his sympathy as his ongoing struggles while the after effects of leukaemia treatment continue.
Rather than reflect upon a wonderful career, Ricksen cut a desolate figure on Dutch TV on Wednesday. It was awful to watch, as a haunted look consumed him. It left you wondering how life can be this unfair.
Ricksen's plight provides protruding evidence that making plans is futile. Football means nothing really, a mere distraction. We are all just toys in the hands of fate. We should all include this swashbuckling player in our thoughts and prayers in his fight against this debilitating illness. And hope fate finds a way to shed light at the end of what must feel like a very dark tunnel.
ABOUT AMYOTROPHIC LATERAL SCLEROSIS
ALS is one type of motor neurone disease, which is a rapidly progressive and fatal illness. It can affect any adult at any time and attacks the motor neurones that send messages from the brain to the muscles, leaving people unable to walk, talk or feed themselves. The cause of the disease is unknown and there is no known cure. Around 5,000 people in the UK have MND at any one time, with half of people with the disease dying within 14 months of diagnosis.
(Information from the Motor Neurone Disease Association)