Sunday 20 March 2016, 08:14

Happy Birthday to you!

In our regular Sunday feature, presents you with some of the biggest names in football who will be celebrating their birthdays over the coming week.

20. Carsten Ramelow(42) represented Germany at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, where he played in five matches, including his country’s defeat by Brazil in the Final. The tough-tackling centre-back had previously competed at the 1993 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Australia. At club level, he initially spent five seasons in the German second division with Hertha Berlin, prior to joining Bayer Leverkusen, with whom he earned runners-up medals in four Bundesliga campaigns, a German Cup final and a UEFA Champions League final, where Die Werkself lost to Real Madrid in 2002.

21. Ali Daei(47) is a living legend of Iranian football, having starred in three matches at the 1998 World Cup in France and in two games at Germany 2006. The prolific striker also appeared at two AFC Asian Cups, finishing third and topping the scoring charts in 1996, and finishing third again in 2004. After starting out at Persepolis, where he won an Iranian League title, he pulled on the jerseys of Al Sadd (Qatar), Arminia Bielefeld and Bayern Munich, where he claimed a Bundesliga crown and German League Cup. The Asian forward later turned out for Hertha Berlin, Al Shabab (UAE), Persepolis (again), Saba Battery, with whom he lifted the Iranian Cup and Iranian Super Cup, and Saipa, where he added a final Iranian Championship to his prize collection. A move into coaching saw him take charge of Saipa and Persepolis, guiding them to national honours, as well as Rah Ahan and Saba Qom. Daei also enjoyed a spell at the helm of the Iranian national side, steering his players to a West Asian Football Federation Championship in 2008.

22. Oleg Kuznetsov(53) appeared for the Soviet Union at Mexico 1986 and Italy 1990, as well as at UEFA EURO 1988, where he and his team-mates lost in the final to the Netherlands. The commanding defender made his name at Dynamo Kiev, capturing three Soviet Top League titles, two Soviet Cups and a European Cup Winners’ Cup. He subsequently embarked on a similarly productive stint with Scottish heavyweights Rangers, with whom he landed four Scottish League titles, a Scottish Cup and three Scottish League Cups.

23. Jerzy Dudek(43) was Liverpool’s last line of defence during their unforgettable Champions League triumph over AC Milan in 2005, performing with distinction throughout the match and the ensuing penalty shoot-out. The charismatic goalkeeper also claimed an FA Cup, English League Cup, FA Community Shield and a UEFA Super Cup during his time at Anfield. He rose to prominence at Feyenoord, where he bagged a Dutch League title, a Dutch Super Cup and a Polish Footballer of the Year award. Following his subsequent spell with the Reds, the Polish shot-stopper put pen to paper with Real Madrid, where he clinched a Liga title, a Copa del Rey and a Supercopa de Espana. Dudek made two appearances for Poland at the 2002 World Cup, having contributed fully to the corresponding qualifying campaign.

24. Benoit Assou-Ekotto(32) helped Cameroon qualify for the last two World Cups (South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014), playing in a total of five matches at the prestigious tournament. The energetic left-back began his career at Lens, before signing for Tottenham Hotspur, who loaned him out to Queens Park Rangers. In 2015, Assou-Ekotto returned to France to defend the colours of Saint-Etienne.

25. Alvaro Saborio(34) participated in the 2004 Olympic Football Tournament and the 2006 World Cup with Costa Rica. The clinical finisher also competed in five CONCACAF Gold Cups and one Copa America contest. He turned professional with Deportivo Saprissa, where he amassed two Costa Rican League crowns, a CONCACAF Champions League title and a UNCAF Club Tournament trophy, and finished third at the 2005 FIFA Club World Cup. In 2006, he packed his bags for Europe, where he held aloft the Swiss Cup with Sion, who loaned him out to Bristol City and then to Real Salt Lake. After signing a permanent deal with the Utah-based side, the Costa Rican forward secured the Western Conference Championship in 2013. Two years later, Saborio committed himself to DC United.

26. Simon Kjaer(27) made two and three appearances respectively for Denmark at South Africa 2010 and at EURO 2012. The robust centre-back turned professional with Midtjylland, where his performances earned him a transfer to Palermo. He subsequently signed for Wolfsburg, who sent him out on loan to Roma. Kjaer later plied his trade for Lille and current club Fenerbahce.