In our regular Sunday feature, FIFA.com presents some of the biggest names from planet football who will be celebrating their birthdays over the coming week.
1. Olaf Thon (45) carved out a successful career that reached its pinnacle with his part in Germany’s 1990 FIFA World Cup™ triumph, four years on from travelling with the squad that lost the Mexico 1986 showpiece to Argentina. The midfielder enjoyed a lengthy run at international level which extended to appearances at France 1998, and during his 20 years in the club game he claimed numerous domestic titles with Schalke and Bayern Munich. Thon also tasted UEFA Cup success with Schalke against Inter Milan in the 1997 decider, and is currently drawing on those various victories as he hones his skills as a coach.
2. David Beckham (36) made an astonishingly rapid impression after bursting onto the Manchester United scene in the early 1990s. Stepping into Eric Cantona’s shoes could easily have proved intimidating for the Red Devils’ new No7, but the youngster from Leytonstone quickly made the right-midfield spot his own and went on to attain legendary status at Old Trafford. In 1999, he was a key contributor to a historic treble for the club that included triumphs in the league, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League, and he added more medals after signing for Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2003. His decision to join Los Angeles Galaxy caused a stir four years later, but the England midfielder was soon back in Europe, enjoying consecutive loan spells with AC Milan during the off-season in the USA. Those brief stints in Serie A helped Beckham prolong his international career, and he can look back at three tilts at the FIFA World Cup, even if injury denied him a fourth crack at South Africa 2010. He also took part in two UEFA European Championships, and although he was unable to help England win a major tournament, he remains fondly remembered by fans of all his former clubs. As for his own particular gifts, Beckham has long been a devastating free-kick exponent, as a lengthy list of goalkeepers would no doubt attest.
3. Michael Reiziger (38) was a key member of a generation of players that injected fresh blood into Dutch football. During his time with Ajax, he helped restore some of the Amsterdam outfit’s former glories when he contributed to their Champions League victory in 1994/95, and he boosted his collection of honours after signing for Barcelona in 1997. The right-back also spent time at Middlesbrough in England, before returning home to PSV Eindhoven at the tail end of a career in which he also laid claim to a first-team spot with the Netherlands. Reiziger and Co brought an updated version of Total Football to the international scene, yet the Oranje never quite fulfilled their promise during his era, losing on penalties to Brazil in the semi-finals at France 1998 and suffering from the spot at the same stage against Italy at UEFA EURO 2000.
4. Eric Djemba-Djemba (30) is one of few Cameroonian footballers to have tasted glory in some of Europe’s finest competitions, having won the Premier League, FA Cup and Community Shield in his maiden season with Manchester United. After a spell with Aston Villa, he then packed his bags for Qatar SC, eventually returning to the Old Continent to turn out for Danish club OB. With the Indomitable Lions, Djemba-Djemba celebrated victory at the 2002 CAF African Cup of Nations and took part in two more editions of the tournament, in addition to helping Cameroon reach the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup showpiece and appearing at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan.
6. Dani Alves (28) is a high-profile member of that exciting contemporary school of attacking full-backs. The Brazilian international first demonstrated his forward-thinking attributes while at Sevilla, and it was there that he developed a thirst for success, winning the Copa del Rey, Spanish Super Cup, two consecutive UEFA Cups and a UEFA Super Cup. The explosive right-back then joined Barcelona to take his career to the next level, a decision rewarded in spades when the Catalan giants won all six competitions they found themselves competing for in 2009. Although he does not enjoy an automatic starting spot with A Seleção, Alves nonetheless played his part in Brazilian triumphs at the 2007 CONMEBOL Copa America and 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. Much sought after by many of Europe’s biggest teams, he appears happy to stay at the Camp Nou, which could well prove a shrewd move with regards his standing in the Brazil ranks.
7. Nam Song-Chol (28) can claim a place in Korea DPR football history after aiding his country mark their return to the global showcase for the first time since England 1966. Nam featured regularly in the long qualifying process as Korea DPR chased their ticket to South Africa 2010 and he was then part of the squad that made such a positive impression, not least when doing their best to frustrate Brazil during the group stage. That display ought to encourage the defender that similar inspiring performances lay ahead as the game continues to develop in his homeland.