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.
18. Eric Gerets (60) is a veritable legend of Belgian football, having enjoyed a hugely successful career as both a player and a coach. An industrious right-back, he competed at three FIFA World Cup™ tournaments: Spain 1982, Mexico 1986, where Les Diables Rouges finished fourth, and Italy 1990. He was also part of the team that reached the final of UEFA EURO 1980. In twelve seasons with Standard Liege, the tireless defender won two Belgian League titles, a Belgian Cup and a Belgian Super Cup. Following spells with AC Milan and Maastricht, he secured six Dutch Championships, three Dutch Cups and a European Cup with PSV Eindhoven. After hanging up his boots, he moved into coaching, taking charge of Liege and Lierse, whom he guided to the Belgian League Championship. He repeated the feat at Club Brugge, while adding a Belgian Cup to his managerial CV in the process. The wily tactician subsequently steered PSV to two successive Dutch League and Cup doubles, before taking the helm at Kaiserslautern and Wolfsburg. A fruitful stint in Turkey saw him sew up a Super Lig crown with Galatasaray, but an offer to coach Marseille proved too tempting. After significantly improving the French club’s league placing, Gerets tried his luck in Saudi Arabia, inspiring Al Hilal to league and Crown Prince Cup glory. The Belgian football icon then took the reins of the Moroccan national team, prior to sealing the Qatar Stars League title and Crown Prince Cup with Lekhwiya.
19. Luciano Figueroa (33) represented Argentina at several major competitions, including the 2004 Men’s Olympic Football Tournament in Athens, where he earned a gold medal, the 2004 Copa America, where La Albiceleste lost to Brazil in the final, and the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup, during which he scored four goals, with three coming in a group-stage match with Australia. The free-scoring striker began his varied career with Rosario Central, and would later pull on the jerseys of Birmingham City, Cruz Azul, Villarreal, River Plate, Genoa and Boca Juniors, with whom he clinched the Apertura Championship in 2008. Following a short-lived return to Rosario, Figueroa moved to Ecuadorian outfit Emelec, and then to Panathinaikos. He currently defends the colours of Malaysian side Johor Darul Takzim.
20. Stephane Mbia (28) has established himself as one of the top defensive midfield players in Europe, and recently capped off a fine season with Sevilla by prevailing in the UEFA Europa League final. The Cameroonian has had an equally productive year on the international stage, taking part in his country’s ultimately triumphant Brazil 2014 qualifying campaign and bagging a place in their provisional 28-man squad. He had previously participated in South Africa 2010, the 2008 Olympic Football Tournament and the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Cup with Les Lions Indomptables. In addition, the Yaounde-born grafter reached the final of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 2008. Mbia started out at Rennes, but it was at Marseille that he rose to wider prominence, picking up winners’ medals in the 2009/10 Ligue 1 campaign, three French League Cup finals and two Trophées des champions clashes. In 2012, he signed for Queens Park Rangers, who loaned him to Sevilla at the start of this current term.
21. Mario Mandzukic (28) has experienced considerable success over the past twelve months, scoring in Bayern Munich’s UEFA Champions League victory over Borussia Dortmund, as well as lifting the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup. More recently, he attained his second successive domestic double, lifting the DFB-Pokal and claiming the Bundesliga crown, finishing runner-up in the German scoring charts in the process. At international level, the bustling frontman appeared at UEFA EURO 2012 with Croatia, and will likely provide the Balkan nation’s principal goal threat at Brazil 2014. Mandzukic turned professional with his home-town team, Marsonia, before moving to NK Zagreb and then Dynamo Zagreb, with whom he landed three Croatian League titles and two Croatian Cups. After joining Wolfsburg, a consistent series of top-notch performances persuaded Bayern to acquire the clinical striker’s services, a vote of confidence he promptly returned by propelling the Bavarians to a German League, Cup and Super Cup treble. He has twice been named Croatian Footballer of the Year, in 2012 and 2013.
22. Jeremy Christie (31) played a key role in New Zealand’s qualification for South Africa 2010, having previously taken part in the 2009 Confederations Cup and the 1999 U-17 World Cup. The solid midfield man started off at English outfit Barnsley, but returned home to initially represent Football Kingz, followed by Waitakere United and New Zealand Knights. Christie later played for Australian side Perth Glory and USA-based FC Tampa Bay (now Tampa Bay Rowdies).
23. Zinha (38) appeared for Mexico at the 2006 World Cup, the 2005 Confederations Cup, where he notched a goal against Japan that was later voted the best in tournament history, and the 2004 Olympic Football Tournament. The evergreen attacking midfielder recently helped El Tri to overcome New Zealand in an intercontinental play-off and qualify for Brazil 2014. He made his Mexican top-flight debut at Monterrey, prior to committing himself to Toluca in 1999, where he plies his trade to this day. In 15 years with Los Choriceros, Zinha has claimed five Mexican Championships, two Mexican Super Cups and a CONCACAF Champions’ Cup.
24. Pat Bonner (54) excelled between the sticks for the Republic of Ireland for 15 years, starring at Italy 1990, where he and his team-mates were eliminated at the quarter-final stage by the host nation, and USA 1994, where they suffered a Round-of-16 defeat by the Netherlands. The athletic shot-stopper also competed at UEFA EURO 1988. Bonner was a loyal servant of Scottish giants Celtic for the entirety of his 20-year domestic career, during which he scooped four Scottish Premier League titles, three Scottish Cups and a Scottish League Cup.