Today marks the birthdays of some special football talents from past, present, and future.
Happy Birthday to Cesare Maldini (82), Gheorghe Hagi (49), Carlos Tévez (30), Neymar Jr. (22) Cristiano Ronaldo (29), and Adnan Januzaj (19).
Cesare Maldini won four Serie A championships and the European Cup as a player with AC Milan. He went on to manage the Rossoneri and was assistant coach to the 1982 World Cup-winning Italian national team. With his son Paolo as captain, Maldini took Italy to the 1998 World Cup quarter-finals.
Gheorge Hagi, nicknamed “The Maradona of the Carpathians” is regarded as the greatest Romanian player of all time. He played in three World Cups and three European Championships for his country and was chosen by Pelé as one of the 125 Greatest Living Footballers. He was named Romanian player of the year on seven occasions and was selected on the team of the tournament at the 1994 World Cup. He played for both Real Madrid and Barcelona and was a league winner in both Turkey and his homeland.
Carlos Tevez has played for Manchester City, Boca Juniors, Corinthians, West Ham United, Man United, Man City, and now Juventus in an at times controversial career. A gold-medallist at the 2004 Olympic Games with Argentina, he finished as the tournament’s top scorer with eight including the winner in the final. Three times South American Footballer of the Year, and twice Argentina’s equivalent, Tevez won league titles with Boca Juniors, Corinthians, Manchester United, and Manchester City and was joint top scorer in the Premier League in 2010-11.
Neymar is the current darling of the Brazilian national side and Barcelona’s highest profile recent signing. At just 19, he won the 2011 South American Footballer of the Year award and also claimed the FIFA Puskás Award for Goal of the Year. The same year his club Santos won the Copa Libertadores title in which Neymar scored 6 goals. In 2013 Neymar won the golden ball for the best player of the tournament for Brazil’s Confederations Cup-winning team. He carries the host nation’s hopes at this summer’s World Cup finals.
Cristiano Ronaldo is now considered the current best player in the world following his Ballon D’Or win, the second of his career. The Portuguese became the most expensive footballer in history when he moved from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2009 in a transfer worth £80 million. Twelve months earlier, he won the FIFA World Player of the Year, FIFPro Player of the Year, World Soccer Player of the Year, and the Onze d’Or. A year later, Ronaldo was awarded the Puskas award for best goal of the year. He won three league titles, an FA Cup, and the European Cup during his time at Manchester United and added the La Liga crown with Real Madrid. His list of individual honours is almost endless and Ronaldo is arguably the biggest name in world football right now.
Adnan Januzaj’s explosive introduction to the Premier League has made him one of the most highly-sought after youngsters in the game. His international eligibility sees him at the centre of a scrap involving Belgium, Albania, Turkey, Serbia, Kosovo, and England. He left Anderlecht for Manchester United at the age of 16 in March 2011 and made his competitive début in the 2013 Community Shield against Wigan. In his first start, Januzaj scored twice in a 2-1 victory away to Sunderland to announce his arrival on the top stage. In 17 games this season, he has three goals and two assists and is earmarked as a future star for the Red Devils, and whichever country he decides to line out for at international level.