Sunday 11 September 2016, 09:32

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.

11. Slaven Bilic(48) made seven appearances for the Croatia XI that surprisingly finished third at the 1998 FIFA World Cup France™, having previously starred at UEFA EURO 1996 in what was his country’s first outing at the continental tournament. The commanding defender began his club career at Hajduk Split, where he claimed a Yugoslav Cup, a Croatian League title and a Croatian Cup, prior to turning out for Karlsruhe, West Ham and Everton. In 1999, he retraced his steps to see out his playing days with Hajduk, with whom he lifted the Croatian Cup once more. Bilic then moved into coaching, taking the reins of Hajduk, the Croatian U-21 side, the senior Croatia team (whom he guided to EURO 2008 and EURO 2012), Lokomotiv Moscow, Besiktas and current club West Ham.

12. Jose Santa(46) participated in France 1998 and in two Copa America tournaments with Colombia, finishing third at the 1995 edition of the continental event. As a younger man, the Pereira-born defender represented his country at the 1989 FIFA U-20 World Cup and the 1992 Olympic Football Tournament. Santa amassed several national and continental trophies with Atletico Nacional, before hanging up his boots and becoming the coach of Atletico Huila.

13. Marcelinho Paulista(43) was part of the Brazil team that lifted the 1993 U-20 World Cup, playing in six matches and scoring one goal. In 1996, the midfielder earned a bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. At club level, he enjoyed his greatest moments with Corinthians, where he won a Sao Paulo State Championship and a Brazilian Cup. The nomadic Brazilian later turned out for a number of clubs in his homeland, such as Botafogo, Guarani, Fluminense, Juventude and Cabofriense, and also tried his luck in Europe, where he played for Panionios and Almeria.

14. Alex(39) donned the jersey of Brazil at the 1999 and 2003 FIFA Confederations Cups, scoring four goals at the former tournament as the Verde-Amarela finished second. He also took part in three consecutive Copa America contests, holding aloft the trophy in 1999 and 2004, and notching a total of three goals in thirteen matches. In addition, the attack-minded South American appeared at the 1997 U-20 World Cup and the 2000 Men’s Olympic Football Tournament. After coming through the ranks at Coritiba, he joined Palmeiras, with whom he brandished the Brazilian Cup and Copa Libertadores. Following a subsequent stint at Parma, during which he was loaned out to a number of Brazilian clubs, Alex moved to Cruzeiro, where he bagged a Brazilian League title, a Brazilian Cup and two Minas Gerais State Championships, and then to Fenerbahce. The free-scoring Brazilian’s time in Istanbul was highly productive, as he racked up three Turkish League crowns, a Turkish Cup, two Turkish Super Cups and two Turkish Footballer of the Year awards, and topped the national scoring charts on two occasions. Upon returning to Coritiba, he added a Parana State Championship to his CV.

15. Dirk Medved(48) received over 20 caps for Belgium in the 1990s, two of which came at the 1994 World Cup in the USA, where he and his team-mates reached the knockout stages. The versatile defender played for Gent, Club Brugge, where he secured a Belgian League title, two Belgian Cups and two Belgian Super Cups, and Standard Liege, where he drew down the curtain on his career.

16. Karl-Heinz Riedle(51) wore the colours of West Germany at Italy 1990, where he clinched a World Cup winners’ medal, and of Germany at USA 1994. The bustling centre-forward also appeared at the 1988 Olympics, where he picked up a bronze medal, and EURO 1992, where he finished joint top scorer (with three goals) as the Germans reached the final. He started out at Augsburg, but it was at Werder Bremen that he made his name, landing a Bundesliga title and a German Super Cup, and finishing as joint top scorer in the 1989/90 UEFA Cup. Riedle later played for Lazio and Borussia Dortmund, where he scooped two Bundesliga titles, two German Super Cups and a UEFA Champions League title, as well as Liverpool and Fulham.

17. Demis Nikolaidis(43) helped Greece to an unlikely triumph at EURO 2004, during which he competed in four encounters. The skilful striker turned professional at Ethnikos Alexandroupolis, and later starred for Apollon and AEK Athens, where he won three Greeks Cups, a Greek Super Cup and three Greek Footballer of the Year awards. In 1999, he topped the Greek scoring charts. Nikolaidis enjoyed a brief but successful spell with Atletico Madrid, before injuries caused him to prematurely bring his career to a close.