In our regular Sunday feature, *FIFA.com *reveals which well-known members of Planet Football will be celebrating their birthdays over the coming week.
27. Gaizka Mendieta (37) deserves his fair share of greetings cards from Valencia fans. The talented attacking midfielder was a mainstay of the Ché side that won the Copa del Rey in 1999, the club’s first in 20 years, and reached back-to-back UEFA Champions League finals in 2000 and 2001, finishing runners-up on both occasions. Mendieta also shone on the international stage, appearing for Spain at UEFA EURO 2000 and the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, though he failed to replicate his Valencia form when later joining Barcelona, Lazio, Fulham and, finally, Middlesbrough.
28.Earnie Stewart (42) is an integral part of American footballing history, featuring in three consecutive FIFA World Cup finals in for the USA between 1994 and 2002.Though the Americans would lose all three of their group matches, they have been ever-presents ever since, with Stewart forming part of the team that reached the last 16 at USA 1994 and the quarter-finals at Korea/Japan 2002. The midfielder was also on duty at two FIFA Confederation Cups, including Mexico 1999, when the Americans took third place. Born in the Netherlands, Stewart spent most of his club career there, eventually retiring in 2005 at VVV Venlo, the club that gave him his professional debut.
29.The most technically gifted of playmakers, Rui Costa (39) posed a formidable threat to opposing defences throughout his career. Making his name as a youngster at Benfica, he then joined forces with Gabriel Batistuta at Fiorentina, who would challenge the long-established supremacy of Serie A’s big guns. The Portuguese would eventually lift the scudetto with AC Milan, where he also won the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Super Cup. A veteran of Japan/Korea 2002 and UEFA EURO 2004, where Portugal were denied glory on home soil by a tenacious Greece side, Rui Costa called time on his illustrious career back where it all began, with Benfica.
30.Sergio Ramos (25) has achieved in a few short years what many players fail to accomplish in a lifetime. Accustomed to the limelight after joining Real Madrid from his hometown Sevilla, the versatile defender won his first league winner’s medal two years after arriving at the Santiago Bernabeu and is now lending his weight to Madrid’s bid to end Barcelona’s domination of the domestic scene. His buccaneering play down the right flank made him a first choice with Spain coach Luis Aragones and his successor Vicente del Bosque, with Ramos playing significant roles in La Roja’s triumphs at UEFA EURO 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. With many years in the elite still ahead of him, there is every reason to believe that Ramos will win yet more silverware for club and country.
31. Cesar Sampaio (43) is best-known for his performances with Brazil, reaching the 1995 Copa America final with A Seleção and winning the competition in 1997, the same year that he also tasted glory in the FIFA Confederations Cup in Saudi Arabia. Proof that he belonged on the big stage came the following year. Helping the Brazilians reach the Final at France 1998, the midfielder scored his side’s opening two goals in a 4-1 defeat of Chile in the Round of 16, though disappointment would follow for Sampaio and his colleagues when they went down to the host nation 3-0. Twice voted player of the season in Brazil, Sampaio also played in Japan and Spain, where he ran out for Deportivo La Coruna. He ended his career at Sao Paulo.
1. Like his ambitious team-mates, Amr Zaki (28) is determined to bring yet more glory Egypt’s way in the years to come. Nicknamed the Bulldozer, Zaki was a prominent member of the Pharaoh sides that conquered Africa in 2006 and 2008 and put in an appearance at the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa the following year, though continuing injury problems would deny him the chance to participate in their third straight CAF African Cup of Nations win in 2010. Discovered by Zamalek, the striker has had three spells in Europe, firstly with Lokomotiv Moscow and then with English outfits Wigan Athletic and Hull City. Inbetween times came returns to his home club, where he is currently based.
2. Edmundo (40) won the Copa America with Brazil in 1997, two years after playing a part in their run to the final of the competition. He was also a squad member at France 1998 and won numerous domestic accolades, ending 1997 as the Brazilian league’s player of the year and top scorer. Yet, though an undoubtedly gifted performer, he had the misfortune to appear on the scene at the same time as Romario and Bebeto, with Ronaldo emerging shortly afterwards. An occasional player for his country as a result, he would score only three international goals. At club level he ran out for Fiorentina and Napoli in Serie A before decamping to Japan to play for Urawa Red Diamonds and Tokyo Verdy. He later returned to his native Brazil, appearing for a number of clubs before calling it a day in 2008.