Marius Žaliūkas (born 10 November 1983 in Kaunas, Lithuanian SSR) is a Lithuanian footballer who lastly played for A Lyga club Žalgiris. He plays as a centre back, but can also play as a defensive midfielder. Žaliūkas has previously played for Inkaras Kaunas, FBK Kaunas, FK Šilutė, Hearts Leeds United and Rangers He also plays for the Lithuania national side.
He started his career with Inkaras Kaunas before joining city rivals FBK Kaunas. He spent a season with FK Šilutė before returning to Kaunas to claim a regular first team position.
Heart of Midlothian
Žaliūkas was loaned to Hearts from FBK Kaunas in August 2006. He made his competitive debut for Hearts on 26 August 2006 in a 4–1 victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle, and scored his first goal for the Tynecastle club in a 2–2 draw against St Mirren in December 2006. He earned hero status amongst Hearts fans on 1 April 2007 by scoring a late winner against Edinburgh derby rivals Hibernian at Easter Road.
He has made a positive effect in the centre of defence, replacing former captain Steven Pressley. Further to his impressive start to the 2008–09 season, it was reported by BBC Sport that major clubs in Moscow were willing to sign the defender. Žaliūkas was sent off four times during the 2008–09 season, although one red card has been rescinded. The third of these dismissals came in a Scottish Cup tie against Falkirk, when he punched Falkirk's Carl Finnigan twice in the face. Manager Csaba László reacted angrily to Žaliūkas, and told him that he needs to change his attitude. Two of the red cards came at Pittodrie against Aberdeen in separate matches. He ended speculation about his future by signing a new contract with Hearts, which ran until December 2010.
In July 2009, following the departures of captain Robbie Neilson and vice-captain Christos Karipidis to Leicester City and AC Omonia respectively, László named Žaliūkas as one of the candidates to take the club captaincy, along with midfielders Michael Stewart and Laryea Kingston. László stated that despite Žaliūkas' poor disciplinary record, he would be willing to trust the defender with the responsibility of being a leader. On 13 August 2009, Stewart was named club captain with Žaliūkas as vice-captain, although László stressed that they would share many of the responsibilities that come with the captaincy and said "I really have two captains".
After Stewart left the club to join Gençlerbirliği, Žaliūkas was appointed club captain by new manager Jim Jefferies. Soon afterwards, however, Žaliūkas' future at Hearts was put in doubt due to failed contract negotiations, which resulted in him being left out of the team. However, he later signed a permanent contract, ending his previous loan agreement from Kaunas, with which he cemented his place as captain of Hearts. Towards the end of the 2010-11 season he was once again left out of the team on the orders of club owner Vladimir Romanov. On 19 May 2012, Zaliukas lifted the Scottish Cup with Hearts after a historic 5-1 win over Edinburgh rivals Hibernian.
Žaliukas was released by Hearts during the 2013 summer transfer window, after the club had entered administration. After leaving Hearts, Zaliukas joined Rangers on trial. Rangers offered Zaliukus a contract, but he rejected the contract offer from Rangers to pursue other options. After turning down a deal at Rangers, Žaliūkas joined Queens Park Rangers (QPR) on trial in the hope of earning a permanent contract, after impressing on trial Harry Redknapp confirmed that Žaliūkas would be an option to sign permanently, however with QPR still making a decision on a contract offer, Žaliūkas joined Leeds United on trial and QPR instead signed Oguchi Onyewu after losing out on Žaliūkas.
In October 2013, Žaliūkas began training with Leeds United for a trial spell, the club picking him for a development squad match, amid rumours that they would offer a contract. On 26 October it was announced by the club that the defender had signed a permanent contract until the end of the season. Žaliūkas made his Leeds debut against Yeovil Town on 1 November 2013, Žaliūkas rescued a point for Leeds in a 3–3 draw against Watford on 7 December by blocking a goal bound effort in the last minute of the game. Žaliūkas' impressive performances during the absence of injured defender Scott Wootton meant Žaliūkas became one of the first names on the teamsheet under Leeds manager Brian McDermott as part of three centre backs with Tom Lees and Jason Pearce in Leeds' 3–5–2 formation.
In December 2013, Žaliūkas was victim of straight red card challenges in successive games, first Marcus Tudgay was sent off for Barnsley on 21 December for a challenge on Žaliūkas, and then Kirk Broadfoot for Blackpool on 26 December was also sent off for a bad challenge on Žaliūkas. 31 December 2013, Žaliūkas' impressive form was rewarded when he signed an extended and improved contract at Leeds until the end of the 2014–15 season. However, after a series of individual mistakes in the 6–0 defeat against Sheffield Wednesday, Žaliūkas lost his place in the Leeds United team. On 30 June 2014, Žaliūkas was left out of Leeds' two week pre-season training camp to Santa Cristina in Italy. His contract was terminated by mutual consent a day later.
On 3 July 2014, after leaving Leeds United, Žaliūkas joined Rangers on trial. He later signed a two-year contract with Rangers that month. After making 28 appearances for the Scottish club, along with scoring two goals, Žaliūkas left Rangers by mutual consent on 27 August 2015. He played his last match with Rangers in a pre-season friendly against Burnley.
After coming through Lithuania under-21 team. Žaliūkas made his Lithuania debut in 2005. He scored his first international goal against Slovakia on 7 September 2012 in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier.
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