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.
Khaled Badra (39) was a pillar at the back for Tunisia as the Carthage Eagles qualified for their first FIFA World Cup™ in 20 years at the end of the last century. The defender contested a total of four games at France 1998 and Korea/Japan 2002, and also took part in five editions of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, including Tunisia’s runners-up finish to South Africa in 1996 and their 2004 triumph, his final tournament in his country’s colours. He also had the honour of featuring at the 1996 Men’s Olympic Football Tournament, while in the club game he started out with Esperance ST, winning six league titles, two Tunisian Cups, the African Cup Winners' Cup and the CAF Cup. From there, Badra joined Denizlispor in Turkey and he also picked up experience in Italy’s Serie B before signing with Saudi Arabian outfit Al Ahli, where he won two Crown Prince Cups and the Arab Champions League. He eventually finished his career back at Esperance, the club closest to his heart.
Robbie Fowler (37) is not simply a legendary figure at Liverpool but one of the most recognisable faces in English football over the last couple of decades. As an international, he participated in the 2002 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 1996, having earlier won the UEFA European U-18 Championship. The striker first rose through the ranks at Liverpool’s youth academy and quickly carved out a place for himself in the senior team, going on to notch 152 goals and becoming one of the club’s all-time leading scorers. With the Reds, he won an FA Cup, two English League Cups, the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup, though he had to settle for silver as his side lost the 2007 UEFA Champions League final to AC Milan. Fowler also turned out for Leeds United, Manchester City, Cardiff City and Blackburn Rovers, before heading for Australia for stints with North Queensland and Perth Glory. He then set sail for Thailand and a short spell with Muangthong United, since when he has turned his attentions to coaching.
Fernando Gago (26) became acquainted with success at a young age, helping Argentina clinch the FIFA U-20 World Cup Netherlands 2005 with a series of superb performances in midfield that announced his burgeoning talent. Two years later, he was called up for the Copa America with the senior team, and he won Olympic gold with La Albiceleste in 2008 before taking part in their disappointing Copa America campaign on home soil last year. On the club scene, Gago secured a pair of Argentinian league titles, a Copa Sudamericana and two Recopa Sudamericanas with Boca Juniors, earning himself a transfer to Real Madrid, where he claimed two La Liga crowns, a Copa del Rey and a Spanish Super Cup. He has spent the current season on loan with Roma.
Thiago Alcantara (21) has managed to prove his worth with the finest club side on the planet in recent years, Barcelona. Since joining the Catalan giants at the age of 18, he has used all his ability to forge his way into the first team, collecting three La Liga titles, two Spanish Super Cups, the UEFA Champions League and a UEFA Super Cup, before rounding off last year with triumph in the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011. Son of the famous Brazilian footballer Mazinho and born in Italy, Thiago has opted to represent Spain on the international stage, winning the 2008 European U-17 Championship and the European U-21 Championship last summer. He is now intent on bolstering his medal haul with the Blaugrana this term.
Christian Panucci (39) is a true Serie A stalwart, plying his trade for 16 seasons in Italy across a career that spanned almost 20 years at the highest level, which begun at Genoa, and finished at Parma. In between he played on both sides of the Milan divide, had spells at Real Madrid and Chelsea, and spent eight seasons at Roma, meaning the tough-tackling defender can rightly consider himself one of the truly notable players from the 90s and 00s. His trophy cabinet is also pretty impressive, picking up two UEFA Champions Leagues, two Serie A titles, a La Liga winner’s medal and the Intercontinental Cup during his time at AC Milan and Real, while lifting back-to-back Coppa Italia’s with i Giallorossi. His impact was recognised by national coaches too, claiming 57 caps for the Azzurri – reaching his half-century in Genoa where he coincidently began both his club and international career. His time with Italy would take him to the 2002 FIFA World Cup™ as well as UEFA EURO 2004 and 2008, before hanging his boots up in 2010.
Carles Puyol (34) boasts an ever-increasing silverware collection thanks to his displays at the back for both club and country, having helped Barcelona secure a La Liga title, the UEFA Champions League, Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup since his last birthday, while also taking silver in the Copa del Rey. The rugged central defender has his sights set on further boosting his medal haul too, with Josep Guardiola’s side through to the Copa del Rey showpiece, the Champions League semi-finals and lying second in La Liga. With UEFA EURO 2012 on the horizon, Puyol will likewise be looking to claim a hat-trick of international titles following Spain’s success at EURO 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Roberto Ayala (39) was a thoroughbred proponent of the defensive arts, representing Argentina at the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cups, the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup and three editions of the Copa America, as well as taking Olympic gold in 2004. His club career was no less impressive, featuring league title wins with River Plate in his homeland and AC Milan on the other side of the Atlantic, before his move to Valencia yielded a pair of La Liga triumphs and victory in both the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup in 2004. After several seasons at Real Zaragoza, he returned home to defend the colours of Racing Club.