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.
15. Alexander Frei (33) has taken part in the FIFA World Cup™ with Switzerland on two occasions, at Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010. At the former, he notched two goals, thereby helping his nation to reach the knockout stage. He also appeared at two UEFA European Championships. The prolific front man began his career in his homeland, turning out for Basel, Thun, Luzern and Servette, with whom he won the Swiss Cup. He exported his talents to Ligue 1 side Rennes, before joining Borussia Dortmund. Frei’s effective performances during his three seasons in Germany turned him into one of the most feared forwards in the Bundesliga. He returned to Basel in 2009, going on to win three consecutive league titles as well as two Swiss Cups. His clinical finishing has seen him finish top scorer in the Swiss league over the past two campaigns, a repeat of the feat he achieved in France while with Rennes.
16. Sergio Busquets (24) should have a wide grin on his face as he blows out the candles on his cake this year, having just lifted the European Championship trophy with Spain, and in the process adding to his other notable achievements at international level, such as the FIFA World Cup winners’ medal he obtained in 2010, and the third-placed slot he played a part in earning at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. His exploits at club level are no less impressive; since breaking into the first team at Barcelona four years ago, the defensive midfielder has won every available trophy. Domestically, he has picked up three Liga titles, two Spanish Cups and three Spanish Super Cups, while in Europe he was part of the Barça teams that triumphed in two UEFA Champions Leagues and two UEFA Super Cups. He has also twice finished on the winning side at the FIFA Club World Cup.
17. Claudio Lopez (38) starred for Argentina at two FIFA World Cups, namely France 1998 and Korea/Japan 2002. Prior to that, he claimed a silver medal at the Olympic Football Tournament at Atlanta 1996. Lopez has had a varied and successful club career, starting out in Argentina with Estudiantes and then Racing Club, before moving abroad to sign for Valencia, where he lifted the Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup. He enjoyed similar triumphs at his next club, Lazio, hoisting the Coppa Italia and the Italian Super Cup. After four seasons in Rome, the explosive winger tried his hand at Mexican football, leading Club America to the championship, the Super Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League. Following a brief return home to Racing, Lopez packed his bags for the United States, where he defended the colours of the Kansas City Wizards and the Colorado Rapids, with whom he won the Eastern Conference Championship and the MLS Cup.
18. Anis Ben Hatira (24) will be hoping to make a big impact on Tunisia’s qualifying campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, after having recently committed to representing the country of his parents rather than that of his birth. Ben Hatira was born and grew up in Germany, and was talented enough to play a part in Die Nationalelf’s UEFA U-21 Championship victory in 2009 and to finish top scorer at the UEFA U-19 Championship. After having come through the ranks at Tennis Borussia Berlin and at Hertha Berlin, he joined Hamburg, from where was sent on loan to Duisburg to gain experience and playing time. The midfielder returned to Die Rothosen for a further season, before putting pen to paper with Hertha Berlin again in the summer of 2011.
19. Carles Busquets (45) can give himself a pat on the back for two reasons as he celebrates his birthday this year: being a part of the legendary Barcelona squad that became European champions for the very first time, and fathering of one of Spanish football’s biggest current stars, Sergio Busquets. Back-up goalkeeper to the untouchable Andoni Zubizarreta for many years, Busquets eventually became the Catalan side’s No. 1 after the Spanish legend’s retirement, before being promptly relegated to the bench once more following the signings of Vitor Baia and Ruud Hesp. Despite this, his medal haul during his time at Camp Nou makes for impressive reading: six league titles, two Spanish Cups, four Spanish Super Cups, one European Cup, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and two UEFA Super Cups.
20. Alessandro Santos (35) made the decision early on in his career to represent Japan, the country that welcomed him with open arms at the age of sixteen. After having established himself at club level, the Brazil-born midfielder earned a place in the Japanese national side and went on to perform in two FIFA World Cups (Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006). He also took part in two AFC Asian Cups, emerging on top in the 2004 edition of the continental event. Domestically, he began his career at Shimizu S-Pulse, with whom he reigned supreme in the AFC Cup Winners’ Cup, the Emperor’s Cup and the Japanese Super Cup. Moving on to Urawa Red Diamonds, he tasted success in the league, two Emperor’s Cups and another Super Cup. A stint in Austria saw him win the championship with Salzburg, after which he returned to Japan to sign for Nagoya Grampus. A further J. League title followed in 2010.
21. Vahid Hashemian (36) helped Iran to re-emerge onto the world stage at Germany 2006, after his country had endured an absence of eight years from FIFA’s flagship event. He also participated in two Asian Cups. Hashemian launched his professional career at Pas Tehran, but it was in Germany that he made his name. He initially attracted the interest of Hamburg, from where he moved to Bochum. He subsequently realised a childhood dream by joining Bayern Munich. After a year at the Bavarian club, the forward signed for Hanover, before returning to Bochum. After a decade spent plying his trade abroad, he headed home to pull on the jersey of Iranian giants Persepolis in December 2010.