In our regular Sunday feature, FIFA.com presents you with some of the biggest names in football who will be celebrating their birthdays over the coming week.
28. Youssef Msakni (22) is, despite his tender age, currently one the biggest stars of Tunisian football. The North African wunderkind first made a name for himself at the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup, where he scored three goals and helped his nation finish top of their group. Having been promoted to the senior squad, he took part in the last two CAF Africa Cup of Nations tournaments. In 2011, the attack-minded player had his first taste of success with Les Aigles de Carthage, winning the CAF African Nations Championship. At club level, Msakni’s precocious talents saw Esperance tempt him away from Stade Tunisien in 2008, and he would go on to collect numerous honours with the domestic giants, including four league championships, a Tunisian Cup and the CAF Champions League title, a tournament he will again attempt to capture this year in November’s two-legged final. Esperance’s impressive continental form allowed him to participate in the FIFA Club World Cup in 2011. Having recently agreed to join Qatari outfit Lekhwiya in a big-money deal, one that made him the most expensive Tunisian player ever, a brand new footballing experience awaits Msakni at the turn of the year.
29. Kelly Smith (34) is one of the greatest English footballers ever to compete in the women’s game. In the white shirt of England, she appeared at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ on two occasions, at China 2007 and Germany 2011, as well as at the UEFA European Women’s Championships of 2005 and 2009, reaching the final of the latter event. The free-scoring forward also had the opportunity to turn out for Great Britain at the Olympic Women’s Football Tournament over the summer. Smith played at Wembley Ladies and Arsenal Ladies, where she won the English league title, before crossing the Atlantic to enrol at Seton Hall University, whom she also represented successfully on the pitch. Spells at a handful of American professional clubs followed, prior to her returning to Arsenal, where she picked up winners’ medals in five league campaigns, three FA Cups, three League Cups and four Community Shields.
30. Diego Armando Maradona (52) is recognised as one of the greatest talents in the history of football. After a career that shone from an early age, Maradona reached the peak of his glory at the FIFA World Cup Mexico 1986™ when he led Argentina to the world crown. Since then, the "goal of the century" at Mexico 1986 against England, and countless other rare gems for club and country, have become integrated into some of football’s most beautiful memories. At club level, Maradona helped Boca Juniors and Barcelona to silverware. Perhaps, however, his crowning moment was playing a leading role as Napoli broke a long-awaited Serie A drought to win the Scudetto in firstly 1987, and then again in 1990. As a coach, he led Racing Club, Argentina at South Africa 2010 and more recently United Arab Emirates club Al Wasl.
30. Mahmoud El Khatib (58) is a living legend of Egyptian football, and was a firm favourite of the Pharaohs’ loyal support. He propelled Egypt to the 1986 Africa Cup of Nations crown and enabled them to qualify for the Olympic Games in 1980 and 1984, the year they advanced to the quarter-finals. A massive fan of Al Ahly, he realised his dream by signing for the Egyptian heavyweights from Al Nasr. The forward went on to enjoy a phenomenal career with the Red Devils, racking up ten championships, five Egyptian Cups, two African Cup of Champions Clubs titles and two African Cup Winners’ Cups. Named African Footballer of the Year in 1983, he also twice finished top scorer in the Egyptian League. Sadly, a serious injury forced El Khatib to take early retirement from the game, and the tears he shed as he bid farewell to the Al Ahly faithful left an imprint on the minds of all present. He opted to remain in the sphere of football, fulfilling numerous administrative roles at the club, including his current position of vice president.
31. Marco Van Basten (48) is one of the best strikers the Netherlands has ever produced. He showcased his skills at the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy™ and at two UEFA European Championships, one of which – in 1988 – saw the Oranje claim their sole major honour to date, helped by five goals from Van Basten, including an iconic strike in the final versus the Soviet Union. Van Basten started out defending the colours of Ajax, where he secured three Dutch league titles, two Dutch Cups and a European Cup Winners’ Cup. A transfer to AC Milan led to further triumphs, as he won four Serie A championships, four Italian Super Cups, three European Cups, three European Super Cups and two Intercontinental Cups. In terms of individual accolades, he was designated FIFA World Player of the Year in 1992, European Footballer of the Year three times, and Dutch Footballer of the Year in 1985. His clinical finishing led to his twice finishing top scorer in Italy, as well as achieving the same feat once in the European Cup. Since hanging up his boots, he has become a respected coach, leading his country to UEFA EURO 2008, before taking over at the helm of Ajax and Heerenveen, his present post.
1. Majed Abdullah (52) made a significant mark on the history of Saudi Arabian football, participating in the Green Falcons’ first-ever appearance at the FIFA World Cup, in 1994, as well as at the Olympics in 1984. However, his greatest achievement remains the role he played in the capture of two AFC Nations Cups in a row, in 1984 and 1988. A loyal servant to Riyadh-based Al Nasr, Abdullah earned countless team honours and individual awards with the club, including five championships, four Saudi King Cups, an Asian Cup Winners’ Cup, an Asian Super Cup, and two Gulf Club Champions Cups. On an individual level, the striker won the Asian Footballer of the Year award three times and finished on top of the Saudi Arabian scoring charts on no fewer than six occasions. After more than twenty years of top-flight football, during which time he scored a remarkable 500 goals, he retired from the game in 1998.
2. Diego Lugano (32) was part of the Uruguay side that re-emerged as a serious force at South Africa 2010, where they reached the semi-finals. He subsequently helped his team-mates to lift the Copa America the following year. The robust defender began his career in his homeland at Nacional, where he obtained a league winners’ medal, prior to signing for Sao Paolo in Brazil, where he won the Campeonato Paulista, the Copa Libertadores and the FIFA Club World Cup. After a trophy-laden spell at Turkish big guns Fenerbahce, Lugano joined Paris St Germain at the start of last season.
3. Pablo Aimar (33) has enjoyed a highly fruitful career, both at club level and on the international stage. As a teenager, he earned a third-placed finish with Argentina at the 1995 FIFA U-17 World Cup and held aloft the U-20 FIFA World Cup two years later. With the senior team, he appeared at two FIFA World Cups, Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006, as well as at the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2007 Copa America. He initially came through the ranks at River Plate, with whom he won four Argentinian league titles, a Copa Libertadores and a Copa Sudamericana. Valencia was Aimar’s next port of call, and it proved to be an equally productive spell for the elegant playmaker, as his side hoisted the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup, were twice crowned Spanish champions, and narrowly missed out on securing the UEFA Champions League crown. After a subsequent two-year stint with Real Zaragoza, he put pen to paper with Benfica in 2008, where he has since won the Portuguese League and four Portuguese League Cups.