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.
Ruud Van Nistelrooij (36) may well find himself in a reflective mood when he goes to blow out the candles on his birthday cake this year, following his recent retirement from a remarkable 19-year career. He represented the Netherlands at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, during which he found the back of the net on two occasions. He also participated in two UEFA European Championships (2004 and 2008). The prolific striker made his name with PSV Eindhoven, winning two Dutch titles and two Dutch Super Cups, and twice finishing top scorer in the league. In addition, he was named Dutch Footballer of the Year three years in a row. Having caught the eye of Alex Ferguson, he then joined Manchester United. More success followed there, with the front-man winning the league championship and topping the Premier League scoring charts. He was also top marksman in the UEFA Champions League three times, a record that sealed his place as the Red Devils’ leading goalscorer in European competitions. He then packed his bags for Real Madrid, where he continued to lift trophies, including two La Liga crowns and a Spanish Super Cup. His goals again propelled him to top spot in the scorers’ table, becoming the first-ever European player to achieve such a feat in three different leagues. Following a spell at Hamburg, he returned to Spain to finish his career with an ambitious Malaga side. Benefiting from his vast experience, the Andalusian club clinched an impressive fourth place in La Liga, and will therefore compete in the preliminary round of next season’s Champions League.
Alex Morgan (23), one of the biggest stars of the American women’s game, is likely to be racking up the goals for USA for many years to come. She has already enjoyed success in a Stars and Stripes jersey, helping her team to secure the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Chile 2008, a competition in which she finished as top goalscorer. The forward also played an active role in USA’s run to the Final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™, opening the scoring in a match that opponents Japan would eventually win on penalties. Last year, she was part of the American sides that triumphed at the Four Nations Tournament and the Algarve Cup. Morgan played the game at high school and university before turning professional with the Western New York Flash, with whom she picked up a league winners’ medal last season. She currently represents Seattle Sounders.
Saber Ben Fraj (33) helped Etoile du Sahel to first win the CAF Champions League in 2007, and then to perform admirably at the FIFA Club World Cup later that year, where the Tunisians finished fourth after losing on penalties to Urawa Red Diamonds in the match for third place. Although unable to prevent his team’s loss, Fraj scored the opening goal in a tight encounter. Prior to that, the defender also won the CAF Cup and the Tunisian championship. He tried his hand at French football with Le Mans, before returning to his homeland to sign for Hammam-Sousse. On the international stage, he took part in the 2008 CAF Africa Cup of Nations with Tunisia.
Giampiero Boniperti (84) is one of the greatest players in the history of Italian football, representing La Nazionale at two FIFA World Cups (Brazil 1950 and Switzerland 1954). The forward remained a loyal servant to Juventus throughout his long career, playing in 444 matches and scoring 182 goals, longstanding records that were only broken many decades later by Alessandro Del Piero. Boniperti won five Italian league titles and two Italian cups with the Turin-based club.
Nuno Gomes (36) starred at two FIFA World Cups for Portugal (Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006), as well as three UEFA European Championships, coming desperately close to lifting the continental trophy against Greece in 2004. In the early stages of his career, he was part of Portugal sides that conquered Europe at both U-16 and U-18 level, before he collected a bronze medal at the FIFA World Youth Championship Qatar 1995. Starting off at Boavista, where he picked up a Portuguese Cup winners’ medal, the striker spent the majority of his career in his native land. A successful spell at Benfica was followed by a stint with Fiorentina in Italy, before he returned to Benfica, where he would remain for another nine campaigns. At the beginning of last season, he took his scoring talents north to sign for Braga.
Aline (30) participated in two FIFA Women’s World Cups, China 2007 and Germany 2011, losing in the Final against Germany in the former and in the quarter-final against USA in the latter. She also played in the 2004 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, earning a silver medal for her efforts. At club level, the defender has previously represented Uni Sant'Anna and Santos, with whom she enjoyed Brazilian Cup and Copa Libertadores success. Last season, she decided to broaden her horizons, signing for Russian outfit Rossiyanka.
Khaled Gahwji (37) is widely regarded as one of the most talented footballers Saudi Arabia has ever produced. A key player for Al Ahli for many years, the midfielder’s opportunities to shine at international level were not as forthcoming, although he did defend his country’s colours at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup, a tournament in which the Green Falcons claimed fourth place. After leaving Al Ahli, Gahwji also had a spell at Jeddah rivals Al Ittihad.