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.
24. Ramires (26) first established himself in Brazil’s starting line-up during their successful 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup campaign. He maintained his place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, where he put in several good performances, before also playing in the 2011 Copa America. Earlier in his career, the speedy midfielder picked up a bronze medal in the Olympic Football Tournament at Beijing 2008. At club level, he initially emerged at Cruzeiro, winning two Minas Gerais state championships with the Belo Horizonte outfit. He then exported his skills to Benfica, with whom he secured a Portuguese League and Cup double, prior to joining Chelsea. He has since enjoyed triumphs in the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League with the London side, and recently earned a runners-up medal in the FIFA Club World Cup 2012.
25. Victor Obinna (26) has gradually developed into a key player for the Nigerian national team over the last few years. He represented the Super Eagles at South Africa 2010, as well as at three consecutive CAF Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, including the 2010 edition in Angola, where he and his team-mates claimed third place. The athletic forward had previously helped propel his nation to the final of Beijing 2008, but could not prevent a formidable Argentina team from coming out on top. After starting out at Enyimba in his homeland, Obinna put pen to paper with Italian side Chievo Verona. After the club was relegated, the Nigeria attacker played a crucial role in helping I Mussi Volanti to return to Serie A at the first time of asking. A transfer to Inter Milan saw him land an Italian league title winner's medal, but he was subsequently loaned out to Malaga and then West Ham. In the summer of 2011, he signed a permanent deal with Lokomotiv Moscow.
26. Morgan De Sanctis (36) is considered to be one of the safest pair of hands in the Italian game, a reputation gained from almost 20 years of solid performances between the sticks for various top flight clubs, including current employers Napoli, with whom he reached the UEFA Champions League knockout stage and lifted the Coppa Italia last season. The experienced goalkeeper turned professional at Pescara, where his displays attracted the interest of Juventus. In two seasons in Turin, he played just three matches, however, a statistic that led to his transferring to Udinese in 1999. It was there that De Sanctis made his name, establishing himself as first-choice keeper for five of the eight seasons he spent at the Udine-based club. He subsequently enjoyed spells with Sevilla and Galatasaray, before returning to Italy to settle in Naples. He can boast a handful of caps for La Nazionale, and has recently been included in Cesare Prandelli’s squads for Brazil 2014 qualifying matches.
27. Manuel Neuer (27) has experienced a rapid rise to prominence, and confirmed his status as a high-quality goalkeeper to a global audience at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, playing in six of Germany’s encounters and conceding just two goals. The reliable shot-stopper was also part of Die Nationalelf’s starting line-up at UEFA EURO 2012. As a younger man, he won the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship. Neuer came through the ranks at Schalke 04, eventually staking a place in the senior XI, with whom he hoisted the German Cup and League Cup. After ten years in Gelsenkirchen, he committed himself to Bayern Munich in 2011, and won his first trophy with the Bavarian giants – the German Super Cup – at the start of this season. Still involved in the Champions League, he will be keen to make up for Bayern’s loss to Chelsea in last year’s final.
28. Steve Mandanda (28) has, during the last few seasons, shown with Marseille and his national side that he is one of France’s top goalkeepers. Prior to gaining senior caps for Les Bleus, the then Le Havre custodian competed at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in 2006. The following year, he moved south from Normandy to don the colours of Marseille. In six seasons with L’OM, the Kinshasa-born ’keeper has attained the French League title, the French League Cup (three times) and the Trophée des Champions (twice). In terms of individual accolades, Mandanda was named Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Year in 2008 and 2011, and was selected for the Ligue 1 Team of the Year on two occasions.
29. Krasimir Balakov (47) is a living legend of Bulgarian football, having helped his country to record their best-ever FIFA World Cup performance, a fourth-placed finish at USA 1994. The attacking midfielder was named in the Team of the Tournament in the United States, and would also go on to appear at UEFA EURO 1996 and the 1998 FIFA World Cup France. He began at Etar Tarnovo in Bulgaria, before packing his bags for Lisbon, where he held aloft the Portuguese Cup with Sporting. He then joined Stuttgart, with whom he emerged victorious in the German Cup final and two UEFA Intertoto Cup campaigns. In addition, the team finished as runners-up in the Bundesliga, the German League Cup final (twice) and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final. After bringing the curtain down on his playing career at VFC Plauen, he was appointed assistant coach of Stuttgart. He was later handed the reins of Grasshopper Zurich, St Gallen, Chernomorets Burgas, Hadjuk Split and Kaiserslautern.
30. Jan Koller (40) was, due to his imposing height and aerial prowess, regarded as a real handful for defences during his playing days. He contributed towards the Czech Republic qualifying for its first FIFA World Cup as an independent nation in 2006, and scored in their 3-0 win versus USA at the tournament proper in Germany. The beanpole striker also took part in three UEFA EUROs in a row. He started off at Sparta Prague, where he won the national league and cup, and his displays served to pique the interest of Belgian club Lokeren. Three years later, he moved from Lokeren to Anderlecht, where he won two Belgian championships and two Belgian Cups. A transfer to Borussia Dortmund then saw the Czech forward earn a German league winners’ medal. Koller would then go on to represent a host of clubs, namely Monaco, Nuremberg, Krylia Sovetov, and Cannes. He earned several individual awards during his career, including Czech and Belgian Player of the Year, as well as the Belgian league's top scorer's honours.