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.
10. Lassana Diarra (28) is a solid and reliable performer in midfield, as he demonstrated during France’s qualifying campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, but he was unlucky not to feature on Les Bleus’ final 23-man list for the tournament. He had also previously taken part in his country’s UEFA European U-21 Championship qualifiers. Diarra turned professional at Le Havre, where his performances caught the eye of Chelsea scouts. The move to Stamford Bridge was productive in terms of individual accolades and silverware, as not only was he voted the club’s Young Player of the Year in his initial season, but he would also go on to lift both the English League Cup and FA Cup in 2007. After brief spells at London rivals Arsenal and then Portsmouth, the versatile Frenchman signed for Real Madrid, where he won the Liga title, as well as the Spanish Cup and Super Cup. During the most recent January transfer window, Diarra’s services were acquired by Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala.
11. Albert Luque (35) was a member of the Spain squads that travelled to the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan and the 2004 UEFA European Championship in Portugal, as well as the Olympic Football Tournament at Sydney 2000, where he earned a gold medal. The rangy striker attended Barcelona’s youth academy, but made his professional breakthrough at Mallorca, where he hoisted the Spanish Super Cup and propelled Los Bermellones to the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history. Sent out on a season-long loan to Malaga, he then returned to Mallorca for another two campaigns, before committing himself to Deportivo La Coruna. Luque settled well in Galicia, finding the net regularly and inspiring Deportivo to Spanish Super Cup glory in the process. The Terrassa-born front man was subsequently transferred to Newcastle United, where he enjoyed success in the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2006. Following a season in the Netherlands with Ajax, he returned home to Spain to see out his career with Malaga.
12. Twin brothers Julio Dely Valdes and Jorge Dely Valdes (46) are veritable superstars in their homeland of Panama, the nation for which they acted as footballing ambassadors in different leagues around the world. As soon as they hung up their boots, they both moved into coaching. Julio was handed the reins of the national side, and had an immediate impact as his new charges reached the semi-finals of the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time ever. He is currently overseeing Los Canaleros’ intense qualifying campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Jorge, on the other hand, guided his country’s U-17 side to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2011, the country’s first appearance at the event, after having previously overseen Panama’s 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup campaign. At club level, Julio experienced a varied and successful career, scoring goals wherever he ended up. He won the Uruguayan League with Nacional, prior to moving to Europe to join Cagliari and then Paris St Germain, where he finished second in the French League and held aloft the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. He then moved to Spain, where he starred for Real Oviedo and Malaga, before enjoying a swansong in Panama with Deportivo Arabe Unido. Jorge, meanwhile, played for Argentinian outfits Deportivo Paraguayo and Porvenir, and for Chilean side Union Espanola. A switch to Japanese football saw him represent and score for a host of clubs, namely Sapporo, Cerezo, Osaka, Tosu Futures, Omiya Ardija and Kawasaki Frontale. He also turned out for Colorado Rapids and Deportivo Arabe Unido, where he played alongside his brother.
13. Holger Badstuber (24) has established himself as one of the most competent defenders in Europe over the past few seasons. His fine form led to his inclusion in Germany’s final squad for South Africa 2010, where Die Nationalmannschaft secured third spot, and to his featuring in the starting line-up at UEFA EURO 2012, where he and his team-mates attained the semi-finals. A product of Bayern Munich’s youth set-up, the imposing centre-back earned a berth in the first team at the start of season 2009/10. Since then, he has picked up winners’ medals in the Bundesliga, German Cup and German Super Cup, and runners-up medals in two UEFA Champions League finals. Badstuber recently tore his cruciate ligaments, and is currently battling to get back to full fitness.
14. Junior Baiano (43) represented Brazil at three major tournaments, winning the 1997 FIFA Confederations Cup, finishing third at the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup and earning a runners-up medal at the 1998 FIFA World Cup France, where the host nation thwarted A Seleção’s attempts to claim the prestigious trophy. Baiano spent the majority of his career in the Brazilian League, but did gain a taste of football outside South America at Werder Bremen, Shanghai Shenhua and FC Miami. The defender secured silverware and honours at various points in his career, including two league titles and the Brazilian Cup with Flamengo, the Copa Libertadores with Palmeiras, and the Recopa Sudamericana with Sao Paolo.
15. Joachim Bjorklund (42) helped Sweden to qualify for USA 1994, where they secured an unexpected third place. He also appeared at two European Championships, in 1992 and 2000. His domestic debut came at his hometown club, Oster, but it was at Norwegian side Brann that he truly rose to prominence. After subsequently putting pen to paper with IFK Goteborg, he would go on to win two Swedish Championships. A short stint at Vicenza in Italy was followed by two years at Scottish heavyweights Rangers, during which time he emerged victorious in two league campaigns, a Scottish Cup final and a Scottish League Cup final. The Scandinavian centre-half then joined Valencia, where he triumphed in the Spanish Cup and Spanish Super Cup. Spells at Sunderland and Wolverhampton Wanderers ensued, before Bjorklund announced his retirement in 2005.
16. Theo Walcott (24) has established a regular place in England’s national squad over the past few seasons, after long having been one of the U-21 side’s most impressive performers. After being part of the XI that finished as runners-up at the UEFA European U-21 Championship, he participated in the senior team’s qualifying campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. The pacey winger also appeared at EURO 2012. Walcott broke through at Southampton at the tender age of 16. He signed for current employers Arsenal in January 2006, and has since reached two English League Cup finals with the Gunners.