World Football

Happy birthday to you!

Xabi Alonso of Spain with the trophy
© Getty Images

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.

25. Xabi Alonso(31) has, over the past few years, established himself as one of the world’s most effective central midfielders. Instrumental in Spain’s FIFA World Cup™ victory in 2010, and in their successive UEFA European Championship triumphs of 2008 and 2012, he was also part of the team that finished third at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. In addition, he appeared at the 2006 FIFA World Cup and at UEFA EURO 2004. It was while starring for Real Sociedad that the Basque attracted the interest of Liverpool, and he would go on to enjoy great success with the Reds, winning the FA Cup, Community Shield, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Super Cup. Alonso subsequently returned to La Liga in the colours of Real Madrid. He quickly became one of Los Blancos’ key players, helping them to secure the Copa del Rey and the Spanish league title, as well as the Spanish Super Cup at the start of the 2012/13 season.

26. Danny Welbeck(22)has, despite his tender years, earned a regular place for himself in the England national squad. The young forward featured in all four of the Three Lions’ EURO 2012 matches, scoring one of the tournament’s most eye-catching goals against Sweden. He is currently involved in his country’s attempts to qualify for Brazil 2014, and previously appeared at the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup and the 2009 UEFA European U-19 Championship, where England reached the final. Last year, he also took part in the UEFA European U-21 Championship. Welbeck is a product of Manchester United’s famed youth academy, and after loan spells with Preston and Sunderland, he graduated to the Red Devils’ first-team set-up in 2011.

27. Roberto Mancini(48) made his name at Sampdoria, helping propel the Genoa-based club to the Serie A title, four Italian Cups and an Italian Super Cup, as well as a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. He also came close to winning the European Cup, but fell at the final hurdle versus Barcelona at Wembley. After moving to Lazio, he added further honours to his footballing CV, lifting the Italian Cup, Italian Super Cup, UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Super Cup. The talented forward also performed on the international stage for Italy, at UEFA EURO 1988. Following a short stint at Leicester City, Mancini hung up his boots and turned to coaching, guiding both Fiorentina and then Lazio to success in the Coppa Italia. He was then handed the reins at Inter Milan, whom he led to three Italian championships, two Italian Cups and two Italian Super Cups, before returning to England to take over at the helm of Manchester City. His impact was immediate, as he won the FA Cup in his first year and the Premier League title and Community Shield in his second.

28. Alessandro Altobelli(57)played a significant part in Italy’s FIFA World Cup triumph at Spain 1982, making three appearances. During one of those, the momentous 3-1 win over Germany in the Final, he registered La Nazionale’s third goal. Four years later in Mexico, he scored four times in as many matches, including the opening goal of the tournament. He also participated in two European Championship campaigns. After having served his football apprenticeship at Latina and Brescia, he signed for Inter Milan, where he won the league title and two Italian Cups. He would go on to spend eight years in Lombardy, before enjoying a one-year spell at Juventus, after which he saw out the remainder of his career at Brescia.

29. Kasey Keller(43) was the starting goalkeeper for the United States at France 1998 and Germany 2006, as well as at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup. Furthermore, the athletic custodian held aloft three CONCACAF Gold Cups, and played at the 1996 Olympic Football Tournament and the 1989 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Keller began his club career at Portland Timbers, before crossing the Atlantic to represent Millwall and Leicester City, with whom he won the English League Cup. Stints at Rayo Vallecano, Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton followed, as did a move to Bundesliga outfit Borussia Monchengladbach. After a final season in Europe with Fulham, he made a grand return to his homeland, where he hoisted three consecutive US Open Cups with Seattle Sounders. His performances for the American club saw him earn the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award in 2011.

30. Gary Lineker(52)famously captured the Golden Boot award at the 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico, where he racked up an impressive tally of six goals in five matches. The clinical striker also struck four times at Italy 1990, helping his nation reach the semi-finals of the competition. In addition, he turned out at the 1988 and 1992 European Championship tournaments. At club level, he started out at Leicester City, where he won the second division championship, before being transferred to Everton, with whom he secured the Charity Shield. By signing for Barcelona in 1986, the Englishman’s career moved on to a different level, and he would earn winners’ medals in both the Spanish Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup while in Catalonia. A transfer to Tottenham ensued, as did an FA Cup triumph and a subsequent and final move to Japanese side Nagoya Grampus. Lineker notably finished leading goalscorer in England with three different teams.

1. Salvatore Schillaci(48) enjoyed a meteoric rise to global prominence at Italy 1990, where his striking prowess saw him net six times in seven encounters for the host nation, including the winner against England in the match for third place. The Italian front man scooped both the Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards at the event, further enhancing his reputation. ‘Toto’ made his professional debut for Messina, before putting pen to paper with Juventus, where he emerged victorious in the Italian Cup and UEFA Cup. After two seasons at Inter Milan, Schillaci brought down the curtain on his eventful career at Jubilo Iwata in Japan.

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