Nickname: "Il Buon Gigante" ("The Gentle Giant")
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Growth type: Early/Lasting
William John Charles (born: 27/12/1931) is considered by many to have been the greatest all-round footballer ever to come from Britain. It wasn't just that he was comfortable playing either centre-half or centre-forward. He was world class in both positions. Such was his versatility that he managed to break the Leeds United club scoring record with 42 goals in a season at a time when he was appearing at centre-half in internationals for Wales.
There is no comparable player with that kind of range in the modern game.
He was the first Briton to make the grade in Italian football and, forty years on, is probably the most successful export from League football to Serie A where his name is still revered. Certainly, Charles adapted quickly to the skill of the Italian League and made a more substantial and sustained impact than many of those who followed him, including Jimmy Greaves, Denis Law and Ian Rush. That is why he is a God to Juventus fans, the one they Christened "Il Buon Gigante" - the Gentle Giant.
He was supremely talented, possessing a delicate first touch and good control, and in the air he was masterful. Not just because of his spectacular ability to rise above defences, but also the awesome power with which he could head the ball. Apart from his versatility, he was comfortable with either foot, possessed great stamina and strength.
In the foreword for John's autobiography, Sir Bobby Robson described him as "incomparable" and classed him among the all-time footballing greats such as Pele, Diego Maradona and George Best. He also notes that Charles is the only footballing great to be world class in two very different positions.
Charles' accomplishments with Juventus led to him being voted "the greatest foreign player ever in Serie A", ahead of Maradona, Michel Platini, Marco Van Basten and Zinedine Zidane - this in 1997, 34 years after his last appearance in the league. In 2001 he became the first non-Italian inducted to the Azzurri Hall of Fame.
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