Aaron Ramsey to Juventus: Arsenal midfielder will aim to make his own mark in Turin just like Wales legend John Charles did

16 Feb

Football fans had their collective minds blown when Aaron Ramsey’s reported pay packet was revealed following his decision to leave Arsenal and sign for Juventus.
Many Brits players have tried and failed to cut it abroad. Gareth Bale has won multiple trophies in Spain, while Jadon Sancho has become an England international at Borussia Dortmund.
However, none have come as close to the almost mythical status John Charles enjoys at Juventus.

John Charles became a hero to Juventus fans

Born 40-odd miles down the road from Caerphilly-native Ramsey, albeit 59 years earlier, Swansea lad Charles was revered both at home and in Italy where he was idolised by the Juve faithful.
This week marks 15 years since his death at the age of 72. Without doubt, Charles is the greatest Brit to play abroad.
“He is a person who interpreted the spirit of Juventus in the best possible manner and he represented the sport in the best and purest manner,” said an emotional Roberto Bettega, himself a Juve hero, following the death of the man known as Il Gigante Buono – the Gentle Giant – in 2004.
It was an appropriate name, with the big man going his entire career without picking up a red or yellow card.

Charles’ form at Leeds earned him a move to Italy and the west stand at Elland Road was renamed in his honour

Charles first came to the wider public’s attention in 1948 when he moved to Leeds from Swansea Town, as the club was known then, at the age of 17. A year later the 6ft 2in Welshman, who represented his country 38 times in total, had established himself as a dominant centre-half.
However, he reached new levels when he was moved from centre-back to centre-forward in the 1952/53 season and goals flowed for the Yorkshire side.
Charles’ 29 strikes in 42 games in the 1955/56 campaign powered Leeds to promotion to the old Division One and in the top flight, his prowess in front of goal did not wane as he scored 38 times in 40 matches.

Charles died in 2004 and there was a great outpouring of grief, especially in Wales, Leeds and Turin

He was such a colossus that the west stand of the club’s Elland Road stadium was later named in his honour. After all, it was Charles’ £65,000 move to Juventus in 1957 that helped pay for the rebuilding of the west stand after it was razed to the ground in a fire.
“He was quick, he was strong, he could run with the ball. He was half the team in himself. He was tremendous,” Jack Charlton said of his former Leeds team-mate.
When Juve signed him, the Italian side hadn’t won the league for six years, but he top-scored with 28 goals to help them become champions again and Italian football’s new goal-getter was crowned Player of the Year.
He won three titles in four Serie A seasons and there has never been a shortage of big names lining up to praise the Wales international from Danny Blanchflower and Billy Wright to Alessandro Del Piero.

“I received this news with great sorrow, both as a player and as a Juventus fan,” Del Piero said upon learning of his death. “Every time that he came to visit our team, he showed us great affection and had a contagious cheerfulness,” he added.
It is even claimed that, had Charles been fit for Wales’ 1958 World Cup quarter-final defeat by Brazil, Jimmy Murphy’s team could have gone all the way, having been key to his nation’s run to the last eight.
By 1962, the goals that had made Charles so popular began to dry up and he was transferred back to Leeds, returning to the club that made him with three Serie A winners medals and two Italian Cups.

John Charles moved from centre-back to centre-forward at Leeds with devastating success

A further stint in Italy followed when he joined Roma that same year. He played 10 times in the Italian capital, scoring four goals, then moved to Cardiff in 1963 before finishing up as player/manager at Hereford United and Merthyr Tydfil in 1974.
Ramsey joins Juventus in the middle of a period of domination for the club, but if he makes half the impact his late compatriot did, he’ll be happy.
Charles was named Juve’s greatest foreign signing in 1997 and later Serie A’s greatest import. Yep, Diego Maradona, Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane were all left in his gentle shadow.

Il Gigante Buono

John Charles
Born: 27 December, 1931
Dies: 21 February, 2004

At Juventus
105 goals in 181 games
Serie A titles x3
Coppa Italia x2
Serie A top scorer 1957/58
Third place at 1959 Ballon d’Or