"The boyfriend every parent would dream of for their daughter," Marek Hamšík turns 31 today; UEFA.com spreads the love.
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Marek Hamšík, who broke Diego Maradona's all-time Napoli scoring record last season, has turned 31. UEFA.com builds a shrine in his honour.
What they say
"I don't understand why the media don't write more about him; he's a great footballer, a marvellous player. He is certainly among the best in the world in his position and a real pleasure to play with."
Allan, Napoli midfielder
"He's a wonderful person, a model player and professional. Here's hoping football keeps rewarding him for what he puts in."
Edinson Cavani, former Napoli team-mate
"Hamšík is a very intelligent footballer, he gets around the pitch according to what his team-mates are doing. Marek is also a special lad, the boyfriend every parent would dream of for their daughter."
Riccardo Bigon, former Napoli director of sport
"I wanted to sign him the first time I saw him train – head up, two feet, clever passing and an understanding of where to be on the pitch. He came with his grandfather. I told him it was a promising performance and it would be nice to have one more look at him, but I knew already I wanted him in my team."
Igor Bôbik, Hamšík's youth coach at Slovan
"He has an abnormally strong constitution. When we did tests like oxygen saturation, his system regenerated within two days; most players need three or four days. It's a gift for him."
Ján Baťalík, Slovakia national team doctor
International: 105 appearances, 21 goals
UEFA club competition: 74 appearances, 15 goals
Domestic competition: 501 appearances, 117 goals
Claims to fame
• Played just six times for his first club before being transferred to Italy, aged 17, for a fee of around €500,000. His only goal in Slovakian football came in July 2004 against Michalovce in the second division, when the attacking midfielder was 16. "Slovan were always the No1 club in Slovakia for me," he said. "That's why I decided to go there."
• Signed by Brescia in 2004, he started out with the club's Under-19s but made his Serie A bow in March 2005 when he was still 17, becoming the third player from Slovakia to appear in the Italian top flight.
• Brescia were relegated that season and Hamšík became a first-team regular in Serie B the following term, scoring a Coppa Italia goal against AC Milan. Ten goals in 40 Serie B games in 2006/07 convinced Napoli to buy him for a reported €5.5m.
• Hamšík's first goal at the Stadio San Paolo in December 2006 was not for Napoli, but a consolation for Brescia in a 3-1 Serie B reverse.
• Scored on his Napoli debut on 15 August 2007, against Cesena in the Coppa Italia; a month later, he got his first Serie A goal in a 2-0 defeat of Sampdoria. He ended his first Napoli season as the team's nine-goal top marksman.
• Became the first foreign player to receive the 'Oscar del Calcio' as the best young player in Serie A in January 2009, edging out Sebastian Giovinco and Mario Balotelli.
• With nine strikes in 2007/08 and 2008/09 and then 12 in 2009/10, Hamšík was the first player to finish as Napoli's leading scorer in three successive seasons since Maradona.
• Scored in the 2-0 Coppa Italia final triumph over Juventus on 20 May 2012 as the Partenopei lifted the trophy for the first time in 25 years. It was his first major honour, his second coming when Napoli beat Fiorentina 3-1 in the 2014 final.
• Became the youngest player to captain Napoli, aged 22 years and 229 days, when taking the armband for a Serie A game against Fiorentina on 13 March 2010. Following Paolo Cannavaro's departure, he became Napoli's long-term skipper on 31 January 2014.
• Posted the first hat-trick of his career on 4 September 2017 in a 7-1 stroll at Bologna.
• Overhauled Maradona's all-time Napoli scoring record (115 goals) by netting the winner in a 3-2 home victory against Sampdoria on 23 December 2017. The fans celebrated by reprising a chant they used to sing for the Argentinian, but replacing Maradona with Hamšík. "I still haven't realised that I surpassed Maradona," he said when he gave the shirt from that game to a museum in Naples. "The shirt will be here for a while but I will definitely take it back!"
• Capped at U17, U19 and U21 levels, Hamšík made his senior debut – a nine-minute cameo – in a 2-2 draw with Poland on 7 February 2007 when he was 19.
• Was only 22 when captaining Slovakia at their first FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 2010, honouring a wager with team-mates that he would shave off his trademark mohican if his side survived the group stage. They lost 2-1 to the Netherlands in the round of 16.
• Slovakia's five-goal top marksman in qualifying, he led his country once more as they made their UEFA European Championship debut at UEFA EURO 2016, reaching the last 16 again. He gave a notable performance with a delicious assist and a goal in a 2-1 victory over Russia. "He is a great player and we expect these things from him," said colleague Vladimír Weiss.
• In 2017, Hamšík was voted as Slovakia's best player of the last 25 years ahead of Peter Dubovský and Lubomír Moravčík.
• Was named Slovakia's Player of the Year for an unprecedented seventh time in 2018 – a record he is expected to extend.
What you might not know
• Born in Banska Bystrica, Hamšík was due to be christened Marko after his great grandfather but the name (which is Croatian) was not permitted due to local registration rules at the time. "So we gave him the name Marek," explained his mother, Renáta Hamšíková.
• He first played for local outfit Jupie Podlavice, helping them into the top youth division. "It was where I learned to play football," Hamšík said. "I only have good memories of those days."
• Growing up, his favourite clubs were Barcelona and Manchester United.
• His mohican haircut was ranked the ninth best in football by one poll. He reportedly has his own personal barber, Igor Novosad, to ensure he gets it right.
• At Napoli, Hamšík is nicknamed 'Marekiaro' after Marechiaro – a small seaside village near Naples, renowned for its fabulous views and seafood restaurants, which was a glamourous hang-out in the 1960s. 'Marechiare' was also immortalised in song by world-famous tenor Mario Lanza.
• Hamšík's sister Michaela is married to former Napoli midfielder Walter Gargano. Hamšík had teased Gargano after the Uruguayan midfielder saw a photo of Michaela, saying: "You'd like to get to know my sister, wouldn't you?" Now the couple have three sons.
• Back in Slovakia, Michaela played handball for Banská Bystrica alongside Marek's future wife Martina Franova. In December, the couple had a third child, Melissa. Their sons Christian and Lucas (born 2010 and 2012) are already playing football, albeit in an academy affiliated to Udinese.
What he says
"I was thinking about leaving for China but [Carlo] Ancelotti gave me extra motivation when he arrived. He talked to me about the possibility of changing my role to that of a deep-lying playmaker and I'm intrigued."
"The Napoli shirt is my second skin, but my mission will not be over until we have won the Italian title."
"I love Napoli and the fans love me. I could never leave this town. I would rather win one trophy here than ten elsewhere."
"[Maradona] will always be No1. I like to think I could be close to his level one day, but to do so I need to win major trophies with Napoli."
"I know I have been criticised for my displays for Slovakia, but when I wear the national shirt, I give 100% every game, whether I play well or not."
What he might achieve yet
• With 100 Serie A goals to his name, he requires three more to overtake Antonio Vojak's club record of 102.
• Hamšík needs just two more international goals to equal Róbert Vittek's Slovakia record of 23, and is within two caps of catching Miroslav Karhan (107) as the nation's record appearance holder.
• Level in second with Gonzalo Higuaín on 15, Hamšík is four goals shy of Cavani's club record of 19 for Napoli in UEFA club competitions. Four of the Uruguayan's strikes came from the penalty spot whereas all of Hamšík's have been from open play.
• Should he feature as expected this season, Hamšík will overhaul Giuseppe Bruscolotti's record of 511 outings in all competitions for the club; the Slovakian's present total is 501.
• Win a Serie A title and/or a major UEFA trophy. Napoli last won the league in 1990 with Maradona, the year after their only major European honour, the 1988/89 UEFA Cup. The Partenopei finished second in Serie A last term; this season's aim is to go one better under Ancelotti as well as mounting a serious continental challenge.