The one FIFA Ultimate Team event that completely captivated me last year wasn’t Futmas or Lunar New Year but rather FUT Birthday. The FUT Birthday extravaganza was enjoyable on multiple levels: there were daily Squad Builder Challenges (SBC) over the eight day period (with escalating rewards), there was guaranteed Team of the Week 28 packs (tradeable and untradeable) and of course there were the special FUT Birthday cards. EA also released three special player challenges to earn untradeable versions of FUT Birthday cards so you didn’t have to rip packs to enjoy some of these nostalgic ultimate team heroes. It truly was a smart event with good balance and it was well thought out, I can only hope they anniversary the same effort this year.

Now last year’s FUT Birthday class was pretty special, they pulled out some heavy hitters to get us excited about spending coin. Think of these cards as “FUT Community Legends” all of which receive similar ratings from their most legendary cards of FIFA past. They are some of the most iconic “OP” players ever to grace a FUT pitch. You loved to have these players on your team and you hated to go up against them. We’re talking about OP Daniel Sturridge, Nani, Doumbia and Fernando Torres. The whole group is below and my favorites were Eto’o, David Luiz, Agbonlahor and Ashley Cole. Unfortunately due to licensing issues the players have to stay on their current team and cannot be added back to their former clubs which unfortunately makes some of these cards less useful and chemistry nightmares; IE: MLS cards and that beast of a 90 Eto’o in the Turkish League. (I have a solution for this)

I’m looking ahead to this year and who I want to see added to the FUT Birthday class of FIFA 18. It would be a completely new list of 20 players, not recycling any from last year. You can see that list of 16 below and I’ll give a brief description on each player and which edition they should be bringing back.

But first I want to quickly address my solution to the “problem” of having some of these FUT Birthday cards be chemistry nightmares due to players having to be locked in with their current club. If you were to change Ashley Cole back to a Chelsea player with English and Premier League links with 85 pace and 84 defending (before chemistry style) he would be the most desirable left back in the PL. But since he’s on the Los Angeles Galaxy the only way you can overcome his MLS league chemistry is surrounding him with English players which narrows your squad creativity. Someone like Eto’ mentioned above is even worse, Turkish League and Cameroon.

My solution is easy, make all FUT Birthday cards have 10 chemistry like an Icon. They’ll have an orange link (but 10 chem) if they aren’t matched to nation/league and if they are then they will show a green link. Literally the same method for Icons now. It would make this set of cards extremely valuable (there wouldn’t be one card that was a “throw away”) and the community would go crazy for them. It’s that simple.

My FUT Birthday Invites for FIFA 18

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (90 ST, FIFA 12-17) – For a few years Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the most feared striker in all of FIFA Ultimate Team. Incredible shot power, skilled moves, height, strength and an insane finishing ability. Zlatan was the star of the Twitter highlight reels that are now filled with Neymar.  He was lethal with AC Milan in FIFA 12, he was a demigod for three years at Paris St. Germain during FIFA and most recently he grabbed 7 special cards last year in his first season at Manchester United. Unfortunately for him injury has derailed this season and he won’t be getting an In Form cards. EA did release an 89 rated Futmas card (+1 over his base) which I grabbed but I think to continue the hype let’s go back to Don’t Mess with the Zlatan days.

Robin Van Persie (88 ST, FIFA 13) – RVP hasn’t been a FUT asset in many years now but when he was lighting up the Premier League with Arsenal and Manchester United with his left foot he was as dangerous as any. The card that stuck out the most was his FUT 13 base card after joining United. It was 88 rated with 78 pace, 89 shooting and 84 dribbling. It’s a close tie between this card and his FUT 12 Winter upgrade card of similar stats with Arsenal. Either way bring back the left leg of RVP and let’s get some more laser top shelf goals. 

Wayne Rooney (90 CF, FIFA 12) – Before his recent decline and falling out with Jose Mourinho, Wayne Rooney was the card to get in FUT. He was up there with Ronaldo, Messi, Aguero, Ibrahimovic of guys you needed on your team. This card had no weaknesses and you could put him at Striker, CF or CAM and the results would be the same. His current TOTW card still has respectable shooting and passing ratings but we need to bring back the pace, dribbling and defense. The best analogy I can give to FUT 12 Rooney was a hybrid of N’Golo Kante and Kevin De Bruyne, he was that good. Wayne Rooney in his prime was special and we shouldn’t forget that. 

Rafael Van der Vaart (87 CAM, FIFA 12) – I promise not every card will be from the Premier League but I can’t have an all time FUT team without including my guy RVdV. Again I’ll flashback to FIFA 12 where Van der Vaart was my CAM of choice. The stats on his card won’t wow you but he always played above his rating. He started with an 87 base card and took TOTS honors receiving an upgraded 89 version. I would love to have his 87 version back in the game and get more run with this card. Having joined FUT in FIFA 12 I had limited time to play with Van der Vaar in his glory days; after 2012 he transferred to Hamburger SV of the Bundesliga and took a major rating hit. He’s been on a steady course towards retirement now being a 71 silver with 30 pace (!!!) in the Alka Superliga of Denmark.

Wesley Sneijder (88 CAM, FIFA 12) – Wesley Sneijder said that he was willing to kill or die for his manager Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan and you know what? I’m willing to kill or die to get Sneijder in FUT Birthday and bring back this ridiculous 88 rated card from FIFA 12. Sneijder was the adept guru in long shots, no one had a leg cannon like Sneijder. Outside the box goals were plentiful with 89 long shots, 90 free kicks and 85 shot power. He wasn’t just distance sniper he was also an exceptional passer too who played the point guard role perfect in the midfield as shown by his 90 vision, 88 short passing, 92 long passing, 89 ball control and 88 curve. Teaming Sneijder along with Eto’o in a 41212 or 4312 formation was pure bliss. 

Lukas Podolski (83 CF, FIFA 13) – You can say what you want about Podolski’s tenure at Arsenal in real life (19 goals in 60 games) but in FIFA he was electric. His FUT 13 card was one of the most overpowered cards on the game and with 87 pace (played like 97) and 87 shooting he was a threat to your defensive line every time you lined up against him. A left footed sniper with 86 finishing, 91 shot power, 91 volleys and 88 long shots. Currently Podolski is playing in Japan and after moving on from Arsenal he spent most of his time in Turkey with Galatasaray limiting his FUT value despite four TOTW cards over the past two seasons.

Kaka (91 CAM, FIFA 13) – I’m surprised EA didn’t give Kaka the “Pirlo Treatment” with his own SBC for a special version of his card but here we are without one. So if they aren’t going to honor Kaka’s impending retirement then I will. The former AC Milan and Real Madrid legend has spent the last three seasons in the MLS with Orlando City rendering his FUT card completely and utterly useless aside from MLS specific requirements. Since EA gave Pirlo a 91 rated card, I’m going to do the same with Kaka playing off his high rating from FIFA 10 but using the base stats from his FIFA 13 card. (If we used his FIFA 10 card then the card would be a damn near 99 overall with 93 pace, 90 shooting, 92 passing and 94 dribbling).

Martin Caceres (81 CB, FIFA 16) – One of the most over powered cards in FUT history belongs to Martin Caceres circa FIFA 16. An 81 rated center back with 83 pace and 86 defending is damn near Icon status. The ‘cult following’ of Caceres began in FIFA 14 with ratings of 80/81/81 in those respective cats only to improve in FIFA 15 to 79/82/82. He was a staple for any Serie A team and being Uruguayan he could link to Diego Godin for a hybrid La Liga team which many opted for.  He was excluded from FIFA 17 as he wasn’t signed to a team at the beginning of the game but he’s back this year but downgraded to an 77 overall (both CB and RB base cards) with diminished speed at 77, which is still good but not epic like he once was. After he left Juventus he went to Southampton but the Saints never played him, imagine if we had that card in the Premier League it would make Eric Bailly look like John Stones. 

Fabio Coentrao – (84 LB, FIFA 12) – Back in the day of FUT we were in the golden era of left-backs with the likes of Ashley Cole, Patrice Evra, Gael Clichy, Marcelo, and Fabio Coentrao. Yes, don’t sleep on the guy who looks like a cast member from Vanderpump Rules. He was infinitely cheaper than Marcelo and he would give a perfect chemistry link with Pepe and Ronaldo for your La Liga squad. Coentrao was more of a get forward left back than a defensive stopper which is how I like to use my left backs. His 84 pace was good and the rest of the stats were all 70+, he was a very well rounded player and most importantly affordable. His In-Form version from that year, the 84 rated card was one of my favorites of all time so I’d love to see that card make a return. 

Gael Clichy (84 LB, FIFA 12) – As I mentioned above no left back might be more “OP” than Gael Clichy was in FIFA 12. He wasn’t the highest rated but he was the most effective and most versatile. He could be used for Premier League or French teams, two of the most popular options. Clichy’s most desirable trait was speed, he had speed for days with 89 pace and 87 stamina. You could run him around the field and he’d last the entire 90 minutes. He wasn’t an offensive threat and while his defensive ratings weren’t great his speed allowed him to chase down wingers which was invaluable back in the pace abuse days of FIFA 12 & FIFA 13. Similar to Coentrao, he received an 84 TOTW card and that thing should be in a museum it’s so beautiful.

Jesus Navas (85 RW, FIFA 14) – Over the years in FUT there are only two constants, speed is everything and the world of value revolves around the Premier League. If you have speed you have a competitive advantage over a player or team that does not. Having speed doesn’t mean you have to play fast but having speed means at any moment you can break away or counter within the blink of an eye. Having someone that can sprint the length of the field and blow by defenders is invaluable and that’s pretty much all Navas was good for. He wore out your defense and you had to account for him on every single possession. He hit a ratings high in FIFA 14 when he joined Manchester City from Sevilla and his Spanish nationality kept hybrid links in play for crossover squads with his former La Liga mates.

John Terry (86 CB, FIFA 12) – One could argue that John Terry is one of the greatest defenders in Premier League history, go and look at his accomplishments they stack up with the best. One could also argue that Terry is one of the most unusable FUT cards in history. While he’s had good overall ratings (consistently 83/84 rated — with defending stats into the mid to high 80’s) his pace (34), or lack thereof, is such a handicap that you cannot use him. Even his Team of the Season cards from FIFA 14 and FIFA 15 which are rated 89 and 90 respectively only have 50 pace which is killer and renders his 97 defender rating useless. Terry has since joined Aston Villa of the secondary English League and has dropped to a 78 gold non rate with 34 speed. The last time Terry was FUT relevant was FIFA 12 and it’s time to bring back Terry to link with Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly.

Juan Mata (86 LW, FIFA 12) – The best days of Juan Mata were definitely at Chelsea where he earned Club Player of the Year honors as a central attacking midfielder. But that card doesn’t really excite me, it’s almost the same card that we have now but with better ratings which is good but doesn’t get me up in the morning. His height and lack of physicality make him a liability in the midfield especially with the addition of shielding and shoulder blocking in the newer generations of FIFA. Mata’s début card with Chelsea in FUT was actually an 85 rated left wing with 85 pace and 87 dribbling which made him a dangerous threat. He could snipe crosses from the right distance and angle. His Team of the Season card was a joke and I would use that today if it was available so I’m going to make it available via FUT Birthday. 

Micah Richards (83 RB, FIFA 12) – Before Antonio Valencia was Antonio Valencia there was Micah Richards. A speedy, strong, Ron Artest like figure out right back in the Premier League. Richards had 91 strength, 88 aggression to go along with 91 jumping and 85 sprint speed. It was a poor man’s version of today’s Valencia and a bargain at 80 overall. The NFL has Revis Island, FIFA 12 had Richards Island, he was an absolute rock at RB.

Tim Howard (82 GK, FIFA 15) – The only American soccer player I respect is Tim Howard, he played at Manchester United and Everton and he did so at a high level. He’s got international rep and he’s earned every bit of credit due to him. I don’t care for Dempsey or Donovan, and Pulisic has the goods but he’s too young for me to judge, Howard is the best American soccer player I’ve seen. His card in FUT15 while not overly flashy falls into the group of Jack Butland or Asmir Begovic, he always played bigger than his rating. Bring back the real Captain America.

Yaya Toure (86 CM, FIFA 15) – Kids today love Tiemoue Bakayoko because EA made him a modified version of N’Golo Kante in Paul Pogba’s body and that’s completely unrealistic. Today’ generation will forget that for a few seasons (he slipped in and out of being great) no midfielder was more dominant in FUT than Yaya Toure. Size, speed, skill, passing, shooting, defending, he was the entire package. This was back when his work rates were still medium/high which made him a must own card. We could’ve gone with any of his cards from the previous four years but this year stands out because he received two In-Forms, one Man of the Match and was also a FUTTIES award winner.

Honorable Mention cards

Carlos Tevez – FUT 15

Keisuke Honda – FIFA 13

Mario Gotze – FIFA 13

Mario Balotelli – FUT 13

Javier Mascherano – FUT 16

Shinji Kagawa – FUT 12

Loic Remy – FUT 13

Clint Dempsey – FUT 14

Glen Johnson – FUT 12

Retired Players / China Players

Ezequiel Lavezzi – FUT 14

Diego Milito – FUT 12

Daniel Agger – FUT 12

Antonio Di Natale – FUT 14

Antonio Cassano – FUT 13