In our regular Sunday feature, FIFA.com presents some of the biggest names from planet football who will be celebrating their birthdays over the coming week.
29. Massimo Ambrosini (34) will have even more reason to celebrate his birthday this year as he and his AC Milan team-mates are still buzzing after clinching their first Scudetto since 2003/04. Always in the thick of the action, the midfielder and Rossoneri captain has snapped up a long list of successes with the club down the years, including four Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, an Italian Super Cup, two UEFA Champions League crowns, a pair of UEFA Super Cups and a FIFA Club World Cup. Ambrosini also featured at both UEFA EURO 2000 and EURO 2008 for Italy, though he missed out as La Nazionale claimed the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™.
30. Steven Gerrard (31) remains a cornerstone of both the England and Liverpool line-ups. In the club arena, the midfielder was instrumental in rekindling the glory years on Merseyside after a lengthy drought, so far helping the Reds win the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, two UEFA Super Cups, two FA Cups, two English League Cups and a pair of Community Shields. Above all, Gerrard’s driving role in Liverpool’s comeback victory against Milan in the 2005 Champions League final will live long in the memory, even if their opponents exacted revenge at the same stage two years later. He has also shone brightly for his country, appearing at the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups as well as EURO 2000 and EURO 2004. Whichever shirt he wears, Gerrard is a sparkling creative presence as well as a prolific scorer of goals, having notched 135 for Liverpool and 19 for England.
31. Daniele Bonera (30) has always applied his copious skills away from the limelight. The hard-working, quietly effective defender started out with Parma before making the switch to Milan and going on to lift a number of trophies, including the Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup. This season, he was involved again as I Rossoneri returned to the Serie A summit, while in Italy’s colours he won the 2004 UEFA European U-21 Championship and has since disputed numerous FIFA World Cup and European Championship qualifiers.
1. Abel Balbo (45) enjoyed a full and rewarding career that included stints at a number of leading clubs. The Argentinian forward took his first steps in the game with Newell’s Old Boys, where he won a league title, and he then spent a season at River Plate before taking his talents across the Atlantic. His initial port of call in Europe was Udinese and from there he moved to Roma, rejoining the capital outfit again in 2000 after leaving them two years previously. With I Giallorossi, Balbo stormed to Serie A success and added the Italian Super Cup for good measure, garnering further glory during a memorable 1998/99 campaign at Parma which yielded victory in the UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia. His goalscoring abilities also earned the forward an active role in three FIFA World Cups, beginning when he contested the Opening Match against Cameroon at Italy 1990. Four years later, Balbo featured in all four of Argentina’s outings in USA, and he played twice at France 1998, while also appearing in two editions of the Copa America. The Villa Constitucion native finally hung up his boots after a final year spent with Boca Juniors, and in 2009 he made the switch to coaching by taking up the reins at Italian side Treviso.
2. Sergio Aguero (23) first announced his presence in international youth tournaments, like so many of his compatriots down the years. He was a key figure as Argentina emerged triumphant at the 2005 and 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cups, leaving an especially strong impression at the latter tournament in Canada, where he finished top scorer and was named best player. His obvious promise did not go unnoticed and in 2006 he signed for Atletico Madrid, having already claimed the Argentinian title with Independiente. In Spain, he helped Los Colchoneros revive memories of their glorious past by clinching the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup, and soon afterwards he headed to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. A clinical finisher in front of goal, the youngster looks set to scale even greater heights in the years to come.
3. Cris (34) has collected a healthy list of silverware throughout his career. Since starting out with Corinthians and then Cruzeiro, the solid centre-back has made a habit of winning, enjoying success in the Brazilian league and cup before heading to Germany for a brief spell at Bayer Leverkusen. After that, Cris joined Lyon and captured four consecutive Ligue 1 titles, adding a French Cup and three Champions Trophies. With A Seleção, meanwhile, the defender was involved as eternal rivals Argentina were dispatched in the 2004 Copa America final in Peru, and he also took part in the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany.
4. Lukas Podolski (26) first came to prominence while playing for Germany, giving an early indication of his gifts at the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup. A year later, he confirmed his promise thanks to a series of excellent performances as the host nation finished third at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. A regular starter for his country, the talented attacking midfielder returned to the global showcase four years later in South Africa, and he likewise featured at EURO 2004 and EURO 2008. In the club realm, Podolski joined Bayern Munich from Cologne and won a number of domestic trophies before deciding to return to the club where he started out, recently helping to keep Die Geißböcke in the top tier.