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.
31. Antonio Conte (42) was no goal machine or dazzling playmaker, but the evergreen midfield veteran can still be numbered as one of the greats of Italian football, winning every local and continental title on offer during a career at Juventus that lasted for over a decade. First choice as captain when the legendary Alessandro Del Piero was injured in the 1998/99 season, Conte provided stability at the centre of the park, linking attack and defence and covering acres of ground every time he took the field. At the 1994 FIFA World Cup USA™ Conte was part of the Italy team that suffered a painful penalty shoot-out defeat to Brazil in the final, and he was to continue to play on and off for the national side until 2000. After his retirement as a player he made a smooth transition into coaching, starting as an assistant coach with Siena and going on to manage Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena, before landing up at his alma mater Juventus, whose board have tasked him with leading the Old Lady back to the summit of Italian and European football.
1. Bastian Schweinsteiger (27) has in recent years been living up to the promise he first showed at UEFA EURO 2004. After emerging at a young age for Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich, Schweinsteiger soon established himself as one of the most exciting talents in the country, his ability to play wide or in more a central role cementing him a place in the national side at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in his home country, where a play-off victory against Portugal saw Germany finish third. Four years later, in South Africa, it was to be another bronze medal for the midfield playmaker, as Germany lost to eventual champions Spain in the semi-final and defeated Uruguay in the third-place decider. To date, Schweinsteiger has won five league titles and four German Cups with Bayern, quite an achievement for a young man with many years of top-flight football still ahead of him.
2. Mohammed Al Deayea (39) spent much of his stellar career topping the list of players with the greatest number of international appearances to their name. The towering goalkeeper’s first outing on the world stage came during Saudi Arabia's victorious campaign at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Scotland 1989 and soon afterwards he succeeded his older brother Abdullah Al Daeyea as shot-stopper for his country’s first team, taking part in three successive FIFA World Cup campaigns (USA 94, France 98 and Korea/Japan 2002) as well as three editions of the FIFA Confederations Cup, in 1995, 1997 and 1999. He was a member of the outstanding Saudi Arabia side that won the 1996 AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates and was only denied a second successive title by hosts Japan in the final of the 2000 edition. Despite his status as an international superstar, Al Deayea played much of his football with unheralded club side Al Taei before moving to Al Hilal for the last ten years of his career, where he won every local and continental title on offer.
3. Osvaldo Ardiles (59) has the distinction of having played in the Argentina side that won the country’s first FIFA World Cup title in 1978, the crowds in Buenos Aires going wild as he and his team-mates defeated the Netherlands to claim the trophy. He was also a regular on the team sheet at the following global showpiece in Spain in 1982. Ozzy’s professional career encompassed three clubs in his native Argentina as well as sides in France and then England, where he won the UEFA Cup in 1984 with Tottenham Hotspur. His name remained linked with the venerable North London club as he returned to coach them after his retirement as a player, later moving to Newcastle United, Argentina’s Racing Club and Yokohama F Marinos in Japan, to name just a few sides he has managed.
4. Antonio Valencia (26) is one of the brightest hopes of Ecuadorian football, first coming to the attention of the world when he helped his national side qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. Valencia’s prodigious talents were evident from an early age and he was soon plucked from the relative obscurity of the Ecuador league to play in Spain for Villareal, before loans to Recreativo and Wigan Athletic attracted the attention of Sir Alex Ferguson. The legendary Scot brought him to Manchester United, where he has been an integral part of the side that has won two league titles, the League Cup and the FA Community Shield. Valencia must be given credit for the way he has overcome a potentially career-threatening leg injury to regain his place in Sir Alex’s side.
5. Salvador Cabanas (31) is a striker of rare instinct and skill, but although he has participated in Paraguay’s qualifying campaigns for the last two editions of the FIFA World Cup, fellow star forwards Roque Santa Cruz, Nelson Valdez and Lucas Barrios have tended to be given the nod ahead of him for the big matches. Cabanas' talents have never been in doubt, though. Crowned 2007 South American Player of the Year, he was joint-top scorer at the 2008 edition of the Copa Libertadores and two-time winner of Paraguay’s best striker award.
6. Robin van Persie (28) scarcely requires introduction. One of the biggest names in Dutch football, he spearheaded the Netherlands in their journey to the final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, where they lost to Spain. The Arsenal man previously played in the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ and EURO 2008, but first made his mark when he won the UEFA Cup as a young striker with Rotterdam outfit Feyenoord. Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger then brought him to the English capital, where he has won an FA Cup and lost in the final of the 2006 UEFA Champions League to Barcelona. A key member of the Gunners' side, Van Persie has worn the captain’s armband on a number of occasions and with his proven ability in front of goal, the north London club will be depending on the Dutchman in their quest to win the league title that has eluded them in recent years.