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.
8. Franco Baresi (51) was no ordinary football player. The Italian centre-back became synonymous with excellence during his outstanding career with AC Milan and Italy, establishing himself as one of the most gifted defenders in Europe after first announcing his talent in the Rossoneri ranks. Baresi won everything during his two decades in the game and also added an attacking dimension to his play, a quality that brought him 16 goals for the San Siro outfit during a famously difficult era for forward-thinking defenders. At international level, Baresi was in Italy’s squad when they claimed the FIFA World Cup™ in 1982 and returned to help La Nazionale finish third on home soil in 1990 after missing out on Mexico 1986. He was then part of the Italy side which lost on penalties to Brazil at USA 1994, a bitterly disappointing experience no doubt intensified by his own missed spot-kick in the shoot-out. The gifted libero likewise competed in two UEFA European Championships and, since retiring, has been passing on his valuable experience to the youth sides at the club where he spent the entirety of his playing days.
9. Kim Jung-Woo (29) played his full part as Korea Republic reached the last 16 of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the first time they had advanced beyond the group stage on foreign soil. Kim was a vital cog in that groundbreaking Taeguk Warriors side, having also helped them finish third at the 2007 AFC Asian Cup of Nations before representing his nation at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
10. Dennis Bergkamp (42) is a living legend in Dutch football, his gifts marking him out at an early age as the rightful successor to his country’s brightest talents in previous eras. He first learnt the ropes at Ajax and collected a superb array of titles with the Amsterdam outfit, including the Dutch title, Dutch Cup, UEFA Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. Bergkamp signed for Inter Milan in 1993 but struggled to hit the same heights, eventually opting to continue his adventure with Arsenal two years later. The Dutch master quickly became the darling of the Highbury faithful and helped the Gunners to numerous trophies, while on the international stage he took part in two FIFA World Cups, just missing out on a place in the Final at France 1998 as the Oranje succumbed on penalties to Brazil in the last four. The forward appeared in three European Championships and twice experienced the same fate, falling short of the showpiece after shoot-out defeats in the semi-finals. He nonetheless finished top scorer at EURO ’92, one of many individual honours for the man voted player of the year on two occasions in the Netherlands and once in the Premier League, where his collection of stunning goals will live long in the memory. Bergkamp hung up his boots after 11 years with Arsenal but is still closely involved in the game, coaching youngsters at Ajax.
10. Hazem Emam (36) can look back on a memorable career, having contributed to one of the standout episodes in Egyptian football history by helping the Pharaohs clinch the 1998 CAF African Cup of Nations in Burkina Faso. Hazem participated in five editions of the competition overall, taking his first steps on the continental stage in 1996 and more often than not gracing the tournament as a starter. At club level, he rose to prominence with Zamalek and ended his playing days with the same side, in between sweeping up a long list of Egyptian and African honours. The attacking midfielder also enjoyed a spell in Europe, moving to Udinese in 1996 before taking his talents to De Graafschap in the Netherlands two years later. The desire to return home proved strong, however, and in 2001 he was back at Zamalek, where he spent another six seasons, playing his part in an Egyptian Cup triumph which helped lift the club out of a crisis.
11. Andres Iniesta (27) delivered the telling blow in Spanish football’s finest moment, scoring the goal that secured the FIFA World Cup Trophy so long coveted by the nation’s supporters. His extra-time winner against the Netherlands in the South Africa 2010 decider at Soccer City Stadium lifted Spain to the global summit for the first time and almost erased the memory of their European Championship win two years previously. For Iniesta, it was another in a long list of successes, the playmaker having first called attention to his abilities in 2003 as Spain lost the FIFA U-20 World Cup final to Brazil in the United Arab Emirates. In the club game, he has been at Barcelona since rising through the Catalan giants’ academy ranks at La Masia, coming on as a substitute in the UEFA Champions League final win against Arsenal in 2006 before establishing himself as a first-team regular and playing a central role as Barça amassed a historic six trophies three years later. Indeed, his last-gasp effort away against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals that year proved crucial, and he will be hoping for many more thrilling chapters with the Blaugrana before he finally withdraws from the stage.
12. Marcelo (23) marked out his potential at a young age, impressing at left-back during the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup and moving to Real Madrid the same year after the Spanish side identified him as a long-term replacement for compatriot Roberto Carlos. Marcelo was soon celebrating the first of two Liga crowns and added the Copa del Rey to his list of honours this season. He now hopes to cement his place in the Brazil side. Selected during qualifying ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, he was left on the sidelines when the Seleçao squad for South Africa was announced.
13. Tarik Sektioui (34) was a stalwart in the Morocco team for a number of years, featuring for the Atlas Lions in their ultimately disappointing 2008 African Cup of Nations bid. He likewise proved unable to help the side qualify for the last two editions of the FIFA World Cup, but there can be no questioning his impact at club level. He represented Auxerre in France and, following a spell in Switzerland, defended the colours of Dutch outfit AZ Alkmaar and Portuguese titans Porto, winning a pair of league titles with the Dragons before taking up the MAS Fez cause back on home soil.
14. Hassan Yebda (27) has been a key figure in the resurgence of Algerian football, notably playing his part as Les Fennecs (Desert Foxes) clinched their ticket to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa following an epic qualifying campaign. The early years of his career were spent in relative anonymity at Auxerre and Stade Levallois, but he began building his reputation at Benfica before packing his bags for Portsmouth in England. From there, he earned a loan move to Napoli and has helped I Partenopei return to the fore in Serie A, with a place in next season’s Champions League now almost guaranteed.