Happy Birthday to you!

Manchester United's Michael Owen celebrates scoring

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.

9. Kwadwo Asamoah(24) has established himself as one of the Ghanaian national team’s key players over the past few years. The solid midfielder took part in the Black Stars’ eye-catching run to the quarter-finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, and has competed in the last three CAF Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, finishing third in 2008 and second in 2010. He started out at Liberty Professionals in his homeland, before joining Swiss outfit Bellinzona, who in turn loaned him out to Torino. Asamoah subsequently signed for Udinese, where he spent four productive seasons, attracting the interest of Juventus in the process. After joining the Turin-based giants, the African midfield man picked up a winners’ medal in the Italian Super Cup in August of this year, and is doubtless hopeful of adding more honours to his footballing CV before the end of the 2012/13 campaign.

10. Mahdi Karim(29) has contributed towards some of Iraq’s greatest sporting moments in recent years, including their maiden AFC Nations Cup success in 2007, which led to an appearance at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. Karim also played in three other AFC Nations Cups, as well as at the 2004 Olympic Football Tournament in Athens, where the Lions of Mesopotamia earned a creditable fourth place. At club level, the winger won the Iraqi league with Al Shurta, before joining Al Nafit. After securing the championship once again with Al Talaba, he packed his bags for Cyprus to pull on the colours of Apollon Limassol, where another league title followed. Following further experiences abroad with Libyan outfit Al Ahli Tripoli and Qatari side Al Khor, Karim returned home to represent FC Arbil, forming part of their league-winning XI last season.

11. Javier Saviola(31) has been one of the most prominent Argentinian footballers of the last decade. He enjoyed early success on the international stage, lifting the 2001 FIFA U-20 World Cup, a tournament at which he earned both the adidas Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards. After being promoted to the senior side, he appeared at the 2004 Copa America, where La Albiceleste claimed second place. The skilful striker won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games and played in the final of the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup, before making his international swansong at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany. Saviola began his career at River Plate, with whom he won two national titles. When Barcelona came calling, he moved to Spain, but a lack of immediate impact led to his embarking on two separate loan spells, first with Monaco and then with Sevilla, where he hoisted the UEFA Cup. After returning to Barça and holding aloft the Spanish Super Cup*, *the Argentinian put pen to paper with Real Madrid, winning the Spanish league and Super Cup during his time there. A move to Benfica saw him acquire further silverware in the form of the league title and three Portuguese League Cups, but the draw of Spanish football proved too strong, and he duly signed for Malaga this summer. In terms of individual accolades, Saviola was named both Argentinian and South American Player of the Year in 1999.

12. Craig Moore(37)turned out for Australia at Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010, as well as at the 2001 and 2005 FIFA Confederations Cups, the former of which saw the Socceroos finish third. Earlier in his career, he was part of the Australia sides that took part in the 1993 FIFA U-20 World Cup and the 1991 FIFA U-17 World Cup. The imposing defender joined former top-flight Scottish heavyweights Rangers as a young man, and went on to obtain winners’ medals in four SPL championships, four Scottish Cups and three Scottish League Cups. After stints with Borussia Monchengladbach, Newcastle United, Brisbane Roar and Greek outfit Kavala, he decided that the time was right to hang up his boots.

13. Santiago Cazorla(28) was part of the Spain squads that captured the UEFA EUROs in 2008 and 2012, and claimed third spot at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. The talented midfielder made his name at Villarreal, where he experienced the most successful spell in the club’s history, a period during which he was named Spanish Player of the Year in 2007. Last season, Cazorla’s performances not only propelled Malaga into the UEFA Champions League for the first time ever, but also precipitated a move to Arsenal this August.

14. Michael Owen(33) is a household name in England, having participated in three FIFA World Cups, in 1998, 2002 and 2006. His appearances at the 1997 FIFA U-20 World Cup and the 1998 FIFA World Cup – at which he was voted Best Young Player – saw him emerge as the hottest prospect in the English game. He subsequently cemented his reputation at Liverpool, where he won the FA Cup, two English League Cups, the Community Shield, the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup, and twice finished Premier League top scorer. After a season-long stay at Real Madrid, the clinical striker then pulled on the shirts of Newcastle and Manchester United. While at Old Trafford, Owen attained the league title, League Cup and Community Shield. Following a long series of injuries, he joined Stoke City at the start of this current season in an attempt to relaunch his career.

15. Martin Skrtel(28) helped Slovakia to make their FIFA World Cup debut at South Africa 2010, where the diminutive European nation punched above its weight by running a formidable Netherlands side close at the Round of 16 stage. The robust centre-back turned professional with Slovakian side Trencin, before being transferred to Zenit St Petersburg, where he secured the Russian championship, establishing himself as one of the league’s top defenders in the process. Skrtel’s form brought about a move to Liverpool, with whom he has since lifted the League Cup. He was named the club’s Player of the Year for season 2011-12.

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