In our regular Sunday feature, FIFA.com presents you with some of the biggest names from Planet Football who will be celebrating their birthdays over the coming week.
Lucas Barrios (27) grabbed headlines last season when his goals helped Borussia Dortmund return to the summit of the German game. The forward racked up a number of crucial strikes in the race to win the Bundesliga title and he was promptly named Paraguayan footballer of the year. Barrios is an archetypal predator and topped the scoring charts in Chile in 2008 as his club side Colo Colo won a league and cup double. On the international stage, he forced his way into the Paraguay team at the expense of more experienced players and contested all five of Paraguay’s games at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, including their narrow quarter-final loss to eventual winners Spain. Barrios’ eye for goal then helped La Albirroja reach the final of the 2011 Copa America in Argentina this summer.
Luizao (36) will always be thankful for having earned a place in Brazil’s 2002 FIFA World Cup squad, the forward featuring in two important games against Turkey as A Seleção went on to lift the Trophy. Luizao enjoyed spells with Deportivo La Coruna, Hertha Berlin and Nagoya Grampus Eight, but he spent most of his professional career in his homeland and claimed several pieces of silverware, turning out for the likes of Corinthians, Flamengo, Sao Paulo, Botafogo and Vasco da Gama. He also won the Copa Libertadores with Vasco and Sao Paulo, and went a step further by helping Corinthians triumph in the inaugural edition of the FIFA Club World Cup in Brazil in 2000. On a personal level, he twice finished leading marksman in the Brazilian championship and topped the scoring charts in the Copa Libertadores in 2000.
Patrick Mboma (41) is one of the finest players to have ever slipped on a Cameroon shirt at international level. Not only did he serve his country at the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cups, he won Olympic gold in Sydney in 2000 and tasted victory in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in both 2000 and 2002, finishing top scorer in the latter edition and again in 2004. Mboma also played at the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup, and he can similarly pride himself on a rich and varied club career. In Europe, he plied his trade with the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Parma and Sunderland, and he also paraded his skills with Al Ittihad in Libya and Japanese outfits Gamba Osaka and Tokyo Verdy. A superb run of form at the start of the century earned him the title of African footballer of the year in 2000, a fitting honour for his consistently excellent performances.
Mustapha Hadji (40) was one of the driving forces behind Morocco’s much-anticipated return to the FIFA World Cup. He helped the side navigate a route through a difficult qualifying phase to reach USA 1994 and they then graced France 1998 four years later, beating Scotland and drawing with Norway in the group stage. Hadji spent the majority of his playing days in Europe, taking in stints with Sporting CP, Nancy, Coventry City, Aston Villa and Deportivo.
Nani (25) first attracted admiring glances during his time at Sporting, winning the Portuguese Cup before he was lured overseas by Manchester United. He has since flourished at Old Trafford, claiming three Premier League titles, a League Cup, four FA Community Shields and, above all, the UEFA Champions League in 2007/08, which was promptly followed by victory in the FIFA Club World Cup. Nani has tied down a place in the Portugal team as well, and took part in UEFA EURO 2008 before injury denied him the chance to travel to South Africa 2010 at the last minute.
Peter Schmeichel (48) deserves to be recognised as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. He played a leading role in Denmark’s surprise success at the 1992 UEFA European Championship and enjoyed a long and fruitful stint with Manchester United, having joined after clinching three league titles, the Danish Cup and a Danish Super Cup while at Brondby. With Schmeichel between the posts, United gave their domestic silverware collection a significant boost, winning five Premier League crowns, three FA Cups, a League Cup and four Community Shields. They made a splash on the European scene too, lifting the UEFA Super Cup and, of course, winning the Champions League in 1998/99, beating Bayern Munich thanks to two late goals in a dramatic final at the Camp Nou. Schmeichel joined Sporting at the end of his fantastic United spell and tasted victory in the Portuguese league and Super Cup before returning to England to turn out for Aston Villa, where he won the UEFA Intertoto Cup. For Denmark, he appeared at the 1998 FIFA World Cup and four European Championships, including that memorable triumph in 1992. He was also voted Europe’s best goalkeeper on four separate occasions and was named Denmark’s player of the year three times, as well as earning a spot in the Professional Footballers’ Association English league team of the 20th century.
Laurent Blanc (46) was a key figure during France’s most glorious era, playing a leading role at the back as Les Bleus claimed the 1998 FIFA World Cup and followed up with victory at EURO 2000. He also contested the 1992 and 1996 European Championships, and was the first player to notch a golden goal at a FIFA World Cup when he found the net against Paraguay during the Round of 16 at France 1998. His obvious class made him the target of several of Europe’s leading clubs, and after starting out at Montpellier, where he won the French Cup, he celebrated a league and cup double with Auxerre in 1995/96. Soon snapped up by Barcelona, he added the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and a Spanish Super Cup to his list of honours, and from there he took in spells with Marseille, Inter Milan and Manchester United, collecting a Premier League winner’s medal during his time at Old Trafford. Blanc turned his hand to coaching after hanging up his boots and quickly experienced success by leading Bordeaux to the Ligue 1 title. That convinced the French Football Federation that he was the right man to oversee France’s qualification campaign for EURO 2012, and his rebuilt team sealed their place in October.